Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Police tap into beat on Facebook

Pc Mike Smith chats to councillor Darrell Owens
Pc Smith says he enjoys getting to know people

A pilot project, by a North Wales policeman who set up his own Facebook page, has been so successful others are being urged to do the same.

Pc Mike Smith, a community beat manager (CBM) at Penmaenmawr in Conwy, said he got the idea because he realised it was an "untapped opportunity".

But he added he had not realised how quickly it would catch on.

North Wales Police said the use of the Facebook website accessed the online community "on their terms".

"I had my own private page and then I typed in Penmaenmawr one evening and all these people came up," Pc Smith said.

Policing

"They were people I didn't know, and would never have normally met.

"But I have been surprised at how quick it has grown," he added.

Apart from the obvious advantages of getting to know people quickly in his patch - he became the CBM at Penmaenmawr less than 12 months ago - it has also helped with policing, he said.

"I've had information via private messages which has led to a number of different things, although obviously I can't go into detail.

"But I think these people would never have contacted me before," he added.

Penmaenmawr town councillor Darrell Owens said the success of policing in the area is also down to "them (the police) getting actively involved" in the area.

Councillor Darrell Owens

The Facebook page is a great idea, certainly in respect of the youngsters

Darrell Owens, Penmaenmawr Town Council

Projects the police have involved themselves in include a Truancy Watch scheme; the clean-up of Penmaenmawr train station; Adopt a Street to clean up litter; fund-raising for a local family with sick children; caravan watch on local sites; community needs questionnaire; Penmaenmawr community clean-up, and Bottlewatch, to try and cut down on under-age drinking.

Pc Smith himself said being involved was the best part of the job for him.

"It's a cliché but I became a policeman to make a difference and I love community policing," he said.

"My own opinion is that if the appearance of somewhere is run down then the fear of crime is more," he added.

His next project is the most ambitious yet.

Disco

The Bluelight scheme will initially involve a "drug-free and alcohol-free" disco for youngsters to be held on the first Friday of the school summer holidays at Penmaenmawr football field.

There will be two marquees, one for the main disco, and then a "chill-out" zone which will have various "partners" where youngsters can get advice on everything from careers, education to where to get help if they are suffering abuse.

"It will be strictly controlled and ticket only, and everyone coming in will be breathalysed, and if they have been drinking they will be driven home in a police car to their parents," said Pc Smith.

Pc Smith at Penmaenmawr railway station
The railway station was cleaned up in one scheme

"I've also met with Arriva buses and they've agreed that any child with a ticket (for the event) can travel free to and from the event, adding to the safety aspect from a parents point of view," he added.

Ian Davies, the head of projects and customer services at North Wales Police said the pilot project of a Facebook page had been "phenomenally successful".

He said research had shown that use of social networking sites was so popular a person in every sixth car using the A55 in north Wales was a member of one site or another.

"What the police are doing here is actively engaging with this (online) 'community' on their own terms," he added.



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