Use of Facebook closed groups to share Rural crime information

The communication of “live time” incidents within rural locations was an issue constantly raised by members of the farming community.

Author
Pc 1945 Marc Jackson, Rural Crime officer Wiltshire
Contact by Email: marc.jackson@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk or by Phone: 07528972111
Location
Wiltshire, England
Crime Type
Cross border, Farming, Improved Reporting
The problem
Increased reporting of Hare coursing/poaching and suspicious vehicles/persons linked to rural based criminality. No facility for “live time” communication to members of Farm watch within Wiltshire.

Summary

The communication of “live time” incidents within rural locations was an issue constantly raised by members of the farming community.

In particular issues such as suspicious vehicles and hare coursing. The mobile nature of these crime types mean that  vehicles and suspects had often moved on prior to police attendance, and confounded Police efforts to carry out stop checks of reported vehicles in remote rural locations.

Conventional messaging systems on a public platform, although useful to warn our law abiding rural communities, also mean that rural offenders may be alerted of our efforts to apprehend them too and take steps to avoid this (e.g. change location/vehicle). 

A closed Facebook group was created for verified Farm Watch members, which allowed the Police to control who was able to gain access and provide “live information” and encourage reporting further of intel via 101.

It also encouraged the farming community to send out their own posts and share intelligence with other farmers across Wiltshire.

Identifying the problem

Increased reporting of Hare coursing/poaching and suspicious vehicles/persons linked to rural based criminality.

No facility for “live time” communication to members of Farm watch within Wiltshire.

Consequences

There had been a continued criticism of the withdrawal of the Farm Watch text messaging system by the Police, and a perception of isolation by the Farm Watch community.

This was demonstrated via frustrations being vocalised at not knowing what was happening in the Wiltshire area and feeling helpless at preventing crimes occurring.

Legislation changes - Existing

Not applicable

Legislation changes - New

Not applicable

Actions

  • A closed Face book group was created and verified Farm Watch members invited to join the group.
  • Local Community Policing team members have also been attached to the group, as well as representatives from partner groups such as NFU, NGO.
  • Additional officers from Neighbouring forces have joined the group in order to assist with cross border criminality.
  • The group now has over 200 members across the Wiltshire area, and is continually growing.

What worked

The group has enabled the Rural crime officer and Community team to harvest intelligence quickly, especially during “Live Incidents”.

As the group’s grown, neighbouring forces have become interested, due to the ability to communicate with members of the farming community ‘live time’ on a  platform they already use.

Giving rural communities a secure platform to share live time intelligence with each other as well as the police. 

What didn't work

Concern is that as the group continues to grow the ability to “police” the group, to ensure there is limited leaks, will potentially become an issue. However, at present the group runs itself and members will flag up individuals they feel are “untrustworthy”

Limited monitoring is required by Admin, to ensure that incidents/crimes in progress are reported correctly through 999/101, rather than the FB group.

Outcomes

The group has resolved the issue of “live time” communication between the Police and the farming community, with the group continuing to grow.

Feedback via the Partner groups is that the group is improving confidence of the Police within the farming communities, and empowering the communities to help themselves.

Lessons learnt

Have a representative from each Community Policing Team area in the group from the outset (rather than added later) to help integrate dealing with rural crime types with business as usual urban policing.

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