A rapid increase of social media platforms must be seen as an advantage when it comes to crime prevention, says Jade Hanning, a district manager for Fidelity ADT. The value of these platforms, however, rests with the members of the group and the quality of information shared.
“We’re living in an age in which ordinary citizens are invited to be active participants in the fight against crime. Knowledge is power when it comes to crime prevention and successes hinge on the sharing of intelligence, so harnessing the power of social media is imperative.
“These platforms are, however, not without their challenges – the most common being the posting of unverified information (mostly hearsay or urban legends) which spread like wild fire and often create unwarranted panic,” said Hanning.
The SAPS recently issued a warning against posting false information on social media.In April, a post went viral alleging that a woman arrested for public drinking was gang raped at a Mamelodi police station and subsequently passed away. This, police said, was completely untrue and the incident did not take place.
“The post is regarded as very irresponsible and insensitive towards both the police and the communities we serve. It undermines the trust of the community in the police,” it said.
It also pointed out, citing South African law, that it does not require a person to be the originator of the content of a communication to be held liable. “The repeating or sharing a post is sufficient,” the SAPS said.
A person may be equally liable for another person’s posts where that person knows that they have been tagged in the other person’s post and allows their name to be used, and fails to take steps to disassociate or distance themselves from that post.
“In Fidelity ADT’s experience, the biggest benefit of these networks if used responsibly is that personal security and related issues are kept top of mind. Successes are also shared and this fosters goodwill between communities and those who are there to protect them,” Hanning said.
There are a couple of don’ts, he said, to follow when using social media in the fight against crime:
- Don’t post any personal information.
- Don’t post irrelevant information (advertising, lost pets, road blocks, speed traps or any council issues).
- Don’t post “confirmed” or “thanks” or “received” once you’ve read a message.
- Don’t post unverified information. Crime warnings or tip-offs received from other sources must be sent to the group administrator for verification.
- Don’t engage in argumentative comments or use foul language on the group.
- Don’t try to be a hero. Members of the public should never get involved in a potentially dangerous situation. Contact the SAPS or your security company to investigate should you see anything suspicious.
“Social media definitely has a role to play and it’s important that the community actively participates in crime prevention. However, in order to get the results we strive for, members of such groups need to be responsible and respectful at all times. There are ramifications for members who consistently disobey the rules – this could, in extreme cases, include legal action,” said Hanning.