Good comms helps catch criminals, Surrey Police report finds

Publicity appeals made by the comms team at Surrey Police are making a significant contribution to catching criminals, according to an internal report shown to PRWeek.

More than half of the appeals put out by Surrey Police comms team generated leads, the report found
More than half of the appeals put out by Surrey Police comms team generated leads, the report found

More than half of appeals result in new leads, of which more than a quarter have contributed to an arrest, charge, or witness coming forward.

In one case, a member of the public recognised a missing person in the street and called the police – who were able to locate the individual.

In another example, a witness who saw an appeal named a suspect who was then arrested for indecent assault of a teenage girl.

And an appeal about a rapist who had threatened to kill a woman in Guildford resulted in two witnesses coming forward who had been approached by the man – who was found guilty after a trial last month.

The Surrey Police news desk issues 45 appeals a month on average – the most common categories being traffic accidents, missing persons, violent crime, burglary, and sexual offences.

I think we are probably seeing more public engagement and assistance as a result of social media rather than it replacing what we would have previously just had from traditional media.

Ruth Shulver, head of corporate communications

An analysis by the force of a six month period between October 2016 and March 2017, revealed that 270 appeals were issued in total – prompting 142 intelligence reports.

More than half of appeals generated leads for the police, with a 53 per cent rate of return.

Social media channels are responsible for the vast majority of responses. Less than one in ten are due to traditional mainstream media such as national print newspapers, TV and radio, while some 66 per cent of intelligence reports have arisen from online sources.

Social media channels used by Surrey Police, such as Facebook and Twitter, are the single biggest source for leads being generated – accounting for 41 per cent of all intelligence tips resulting from appeals.

A further 9 per cent comes from people who have seen content shared or highlighted by others on social media channels, with 8 per cent from the force’s website, and another 8 per cent from online media.

The report, produced by Greg Miles, lead media relations officer, and Ruth Shulver, head of corporate communications, states: "There is a continued need to drive these channels as a means to communicate directly with the public and to use the right tone and content is the right direction to increase intelligence returns."

Commenting on the surge in leads coming from social media channels, Shulver said: "I think we are probably seeing more public engagement and assistance as a result of social media rather than it replacing what we would have previously just had from traditional media."

She added: "Who we are trying to target will determine what communication approach we use and we will regularly send our appeals out to local media and out on our own channels to maximise opportunities of reaching people who may have information that can assist us."

The growth of social media has prompted the comms team to change its approach.

Shulver explained: "We used to send out press releases as our first communication on an issue. We now post to social media and our website first."


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