From Public Participation in Neighbourhood Policing to testing the limits of Social Media as a tool to increase the flow of Community Intelligence
In practice, neighbourhood policing adopts a view of information set out by Wilmer (1970), where community intelligence is a product that is produced by the police, owned by the police, for consumption by the police, in a ‘battle for information’ that seeks criminal ‘signals’ from ‘noise’. This thesis proposes that this industrial age police centric view of intelligence is redundant in the information age and that the growth of social media provides opportunities for the police and citizens to use information from events in new ways to co-produce community safety. The work draws on the work of Granovetter (1973) who theorised that new information rests with weak ties, Shirky (2009) who argued that collaborative technologies lower the transaction cost of citizen participation to enable the flow of latent information, and Ericson & Haggerty (1997) who envisaged a role for the police as communicators of risk. Utilising a new framework of information, developed for the thesis, to describe an information market, its mixed-methodology approach incorporated qualitative methods such as focus groups and survey, quantitative methods such as secondary analysis of Twitter data. A randomised controlled trial was also used to field test the hypothesis that information about crime proactively published by the police on social media would generate more information flowing from citizens to the police than reactive policing methods. Taken together the research found that citizens were either active or passive consumers of information who expected the police to provide an information bridge with and between citizens. In doing so they expected the police to filter signals about risk from noise for citizens, and amplify that signal so that it is heard by citizens above other background noise. The results did not support the hypothesis that social media would obtain more new pieces of information than traditional approaches. Rather it was found that PCSO inquiries received more information than email requests for information or alerts posted on social media. The research also acted as a catalyst for operational change and resulted in greater use of social media by the police force and a move towards a style of tweeting that was more likely to generate engagement in neighbourhood policing.