West Midlands Police Working With Hyperlocal Bloggers through Podnosh

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Lol being shown around the new West Midlands Police website by Digital Service Manager Stuart Davis

Working with the Community Safety Partnerships in Birmingham has allowed us to help partners start great conversations across the city.

In North Birmingham a whole host of police officers are now tweeting and community groups are starting to organise themselves online. In South Birmingham a whole spectrum of people from the Community Safety Partnership now blog & tweet to help inform their community of the things that matter to them.  In East Brum?  Well in East Brum we have Lol .

We’ve written about him before, but Lol Turstan is a  resident who loves where he lives so much he hasn’t waited for any of the local partners to get online, he ran with it himself and created B26 Community – A hyperlocal website for the community of Sheldon, where Lol can help spread the message from his Neighbourhood Watch group.

Lol has been working to forge partnerships locally to make the most of his site for the local residents, including strong links with his local police team.

I caught up with Sgt Hanif of Sheldon’s Neighbourhood Police team to find out what they thought of Lol and working with the B26 Community Blog;

“Lol is a very active, influential, member of Sheldon’s community, and already has vested interest in our area, so when we saw the opportunity for our team to attend the social media surgeries he was an obvious choice for us to take along. When it was first suggested to him he couldn’t dream of being involved – he was scared his age would be a barrier to understanding the technology.

But he went along with some of our officers and a few weeks later when I saw him next I was just, well WOW!  He’d set up a website and was doing everything he could to make it as useful as possible.

Every time we have a community meeting he brings handouts to promote the site and is always asking others to get involved. We’ve worked with Lol to share our messages and make other things happen in the area – but some credit has to go to our PCSO  Steve McGrath too.  He’s worked especially close to Lol to get things on the site.

Together they’ve coordinated local schemes like installing locks on residents sheds after a spate of break ins and and recruiting for the street and neighbourhood watch groups.

We forward everything to him not just police stuff but anything that’s relevant.  It gets it out there and it works because people tell me they’ve seen it on the site – and this level of communication was especially important to us after a murder in a local public house.”

Reassurance

“The day after the murder took place, because of the nature of the incident, we had to get a reassurance message to the effected communities as soon as possible, and while technically it happened in our neighbouring ward residents don’t recognise those boundaries we had to act fast.

There had been a shooting, and a possible case of mistaken identity and we wanted to help allay any rumours. I was informed at 11am and within 2 hours we’d got key members of the community  together at the station and gave them what information we could for them to share.. We had a time sensitive message to get across.   We wanted community we had gathered together  was to share that message with other people.

Lol used his website and the contacts he’s made there to circulate this for us. We know his distribution is vast so for us it’s a short cut to the community. An officer on the beat or any other member of the community by word of mouth may have only reached out to 20 people they bumped into – with Lol and B26 Communty we reached potentially hundreds in a short space of time.

Moving forwards, as his contact list builds we would like to work with Lol to use his website to spread other key messages – we can reach a much wider audience than before and as a result we have a better informed community – which means they can make safer choices for themselves.”

Direct Link to Local People

Hannah Fitzgerald, West Midlands Police East Birmingham Communications Officer had this to say about the usefulness of communicating through community websites;

“Having someone like Lol running a site like B26Community is really useful  for Sheldon and East Birmingham as a whole. There is no really localised press coverage in that area so he’s a direct link to the people there.

He’s hosted our live webchats for us on his site.  The last one we broadcast was around Anti Social Behaviour and as Sheldon Park has suffered from episodes of Anti Social Behaviour in the past it was good to be able to communicate directly with the community there.”

Richard Eccelstone, West Midlands Police Social Media Champion added;

“We used to promote our webchats on our Twitter and Facebook pages – but that would attract comments from the whole of the West Midlands even when we wanted to focus on a  specific area –  that would really dilute the conversation but by connecting to  local blogs we were able to use their audience to focus the talk and make it more relevant. This is true of B26 and other hyperlocal websites across the midlands.

We are looking to focus more of our communications on a local level and working with hyperlocal blogs such as B26Community is a fantastic way of doing this”

What’s great about the approach the police are taking to local communication is how effective it is. Our work with all the community safety partnerships has proven that talking with local people using the tools they understand improves communication right across the neighbourhood and in turn improves the perceptions of safety in those areas and helps make things happen. The video below is of Safer Places Office Austin Rodriguez, he’s talking about how using digital tools to communicate locally has benefited his area – evidence that partners working with the community – talking to them at a local level, works.

 

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