Social media brings new heroes into the crime-fighting spotlight - the public

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The real heroes in crime-fighting are not just those with superpowers and long capes - now we have Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to spread messages, aiding the flow of crime information from our new heroes, the public.

Crimestoppers, the independent crime-fighting charity, has highlighted this growing trend in its latest Annual Review, detailing the impact the organisation has made in the last financial year. Key campaigns, such as one with Post Office Ltd tackling robberies from Cash and Valuables in Transit (CVIT) vehicles, have seen impressive results, with social media proving a key factor in their success.

Last year Crimestoppers took over a third of a million calls from members of the public and a similar number of online forms, enabling the charity to pass on 101,103 pieces of useful anonymous information to law enforcement leading to 6,242 criminals arrested and charged.

Working alongside regional police forces, the National Crime Agency, and other law enforcement agencies, Crimestoppers provides an invaluable service between these organisations and the members of the public who prefer to give information anonymously.

In December, Crimestoppers joined forces with the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) to clamp down on ‘crash for cash’ scams after criminals targeted unsuspecting motorists with staged crashes in order to make insurance claims against them.

These crimes are costing policyholders an estimated £390 million per year, prompting the IFB to join forces with Crimestoppers to find these fraudsters and encourage people to contact the Cheatline anonymously. As a result of the social media campaign and supportive outdoor media activity, information on crash for cash rose by 53% over three months.

In March, the Charity’s regional staff and volunteers teamed up with law enforcement agencies and partners to launch a social media campaign to raise awareness of rural crime. Using pay-per-click advertising, a robust media outreach plan and 22 guest blogs from rural crime experts, the campaign reached millions of people across the UK, trended on Twitter and thrust rural crime into the media Crimestoppers’ work on preventative awareness campaigns also included #Putpockets which was launched in conjunction with the agency OgilvyOne UK in January. Winning ‘Digital Campaign of the Week’ recognition in the charity publication Third Sector, a video was produced featuring sleight of hand experts sliding cards into people’s pockets and bags. These cards were both promotional and informative as they highlighted that if people put items into your pockets and bags without you realising, then they can also take them out. The cards directed the public to www.putpockets.co.uk which outlined the dangers and signs of pickpocketing.

Kiran Dhanda, East Midlands Regional Manager, said: “Crimestoppers’ campaigns have made a measurable difference at a local level as well as nationally. Our committee is very active and has been running campaigns on cycle theft, shed burglary, domestic violence and ambassador training for those working with young people, to encourage young people to report crime anonymously.

“Working alongside our trusted partners, we will continue to build on the work that we do in local areas and look at new ways of engaging with the public to generate information anonymously and empower these communities and individuals in the fight against crime”.

“Whilst Crimestoppers utilises social media to encourage people to pass on information about crime anonymously, please note that this is only to drive people to our Anonymous Online Form hosted on our website. We cannot take information about crime directly through social media as this compromises the anonymity of the individual doing so.”

The review can be found at http://crimestoppersimpact.co.uk/2014/index.html and on twitter using #social impact.