Twitter shows the stranger side of policing

October 14, 2010

Twitter shows the stranger side of policingA major police force in Britain is using Twitter to publish every incident it deals with during one day. It’s designed to highlight the wide range of work the force carries out, some of it less than conventional.

Greater Manchester Police chief Peter Fahy said the aim was to show that the police don’t simply chase after robbers: “A lot of what we do is dealing with social and health problems such as missing children, people with mental health problems and domestic abuse. Often these incidents can be incredibly complex and need a lot of time, resource and expertise.”

There’s also a political element to the exercise: public sector organizations such as the police are facing large budget cuts this year, and Fahy believes official statistics about police performance, which are mainly based on reported and solved crime, don’t fully show the police’s work.

As the police often deal with multiple reports simultaneously, the posts are being made on three accounts (@gmp24_1, @gmp24_2 and @gmp24_3). At the time of writing, one-third of the way through the 24 hours, there had been more than 3,000 reports. (Update: the full archive of the day’s posts is at

The postings certainly make the point that there’s a lot of crime for officers to deal with, though it’s hardly a great advertisement for the Manchester tourism industry. There are also some insight into the stranger issues that come the police’s way such as:

  • “Call from a man who hadn’t received his [social security] benefits”
  • “Suspicious men demolishing a wall in South Manchester”
  • “complaints about a man urinating against a school wall in Manchester” (posted at 9am)
  • “report of loose cows in Atherton”
  • “report of man holding baby over bridge – police immediately attended and it was man carrying dog that doesn’t like bridges”
  • “woman calls about car she abandoned at petrol station in Bury after she put the wrong fuel in yesterday”
  • “another call about loose horses in Partington”
  • “Report of loan scam in Oldham”
  • “Complaint from member of the public that builders have turned up to complete work two months late in Bolton”
  • “ladder lying on M56 [a major road]“
  • “report of someone putting rubbish in caller’s bin [garbage can] in Rochdale”
  • “ongoing problem with youths throwing eggs, Ashton”
  • “woman reports her horse refuses to come back over bridge”
  • “man shouts ‘you’re gorgeous’ to woman”
  • “Man calls to say locked out of house. Wants police to break in for him, Bolton”
  • “woman reporting somebody putting a video on her youtube site”

Several pranksters have also set up spoof accounts with comical “call reports”, but frankly they’ve struggled to keep up with the number or variety of posts on the real accounts.

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