Interview: Social-enabled policing is the 'next wave'

From the Boston marathon bombing to the England riots, Oracle's Hong-Eng Koh explains how community policing can work in the age of social media

The other thing that we are coming across is crime sourcing. This terms is getting more popular among the police. Crowd sourcing can be used to do a lot of good things. But the criminals, from organised crime to paedophiles, are using the same tools. They don’t know each other, but they use technology to do crime-sourcing. You will find this very commonly in the cyber crime area.

The next wave of policing is SEP. That is not just about technology or networking. For me it is a bit like going back to community policing, in the age of social networking.

It is kind of scary and interesting at the same time. And also because of technology we are seeing organisations, whether it is Bikeys in Australia or Yakusa in Japan or the Triads in Chaina, tend to collaborate. In the old days, they usually didn’t trust each other.

The other thing that we have noticed is gamification. In the private world it is good to have gamification. But we are seeing the same thing in the criminal world as well. People treat it as a game, and show off that I am doing this or that better.

New Zealand Roast Busters to me is a form of gamification. The youngsters who were going around having sex with under age women and then shaming them on Facebook and Twitter. Why were they doing that? What is the psychological thinking behind it? It is gamification.

There is also the element of social engineering and this is a big concern from the cyber perspective.

All of the above are threats to public safety, and to some extent public security. But they are also good things.

For one, the ability of people to use social media can be used in rescue measures. Take the Chinese Sichuan earthquake last year. A lot of infrastructure was destroyed during the earthquake. Many people were totally out of contact. But the good thing was that cell phones were working. And they were using a microblogs (in China Facebook and Twitter are not used) to do something like real-time tweeting to let people know where they were and how they were. And because of that rescuers were able to reach out to them.

The second good thing is social-enabled policing (SEP). This is a new term.

If you look at community policing it started in the 18th century. Sir Robert Peel set up the London Metropolitan Police. He is the forefather of modern policing. He focused a lot on community policing. The whole idea is that the police are part of the community. That was how it started.

But somewhere along the line things changed, and people started not trusting the police and there came along many negative connotations. One reason for is because policing is very reactive.

Who can be a willing customer of the police? Nobody is. Something bad has already happened, you might be a victim. So there is a bad connotation.

It didn’t help when in the '70s people started talking about problem-oriented policing. The idea turns to focus on the problem, to focus on the crime and how to solve it.

In the '90s, people started talking about intelligence-led policing. That is about using information and analytics. But intelligence-led policing also resulted in fears of a big brother.

The next wave of policing is SEP. That is not just about technology or networking. For me it is a bit like going back to community policing, in the age of social networking.

The key difference lies in the behaviour of the police department. Going back to the England riots of 2011. By then most police departments in the country, including the London Metropolitan Police force, had a presence on social media. But what were they tweeting? Curfew on, stay home, don’t do this, don’t do that. Such authoritative language does not go with the nature of the age of social networking.

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