SOCIAL media is giving police the means to increase their local presence and encourage discussion with their communities, according to Swindon commander Andrew Carr.

Last week the Chief of the College of Policing claimed that social media now made up more than half the work of a frontline officer, and new intiatives in Swindon were helping the force tackle this latest challenge.

Superintendent Carr said Swindon police were one of the most effective in communicating with their communities online, but that numbers of boots on the ground would not change.

“I think social media is a very interesting aspect of our work, because we as a police service have to be very aware of it in a great deal of what we do,” he said.

“We try to use it as best we can and inform people in the area of the results of our operations and to get messages out there.

“It can be a difficult part of the role in many ways and is something we are always looking to improve in whatever way we can.

“Swindon police in particular are quite active with Facebook pages set up, and Twitter is useful to get the messages out there for us. It has been an inevitable development but one I think we have embraced.

“There is a fine line and we do have to be careful as social media can get a bit out of hand.

“But there are the proper laws in place to deal with people who might misbehave online which we can act upon. We do have sufficient laws to deal with it at the moment, but we need to work on the educational side of things.

“People can take actions on social media they might not do in real life, and are less aware of the consequences of what they might say and do, so that is a definite challenge going forward in policing.”

Social media in Swindon policing is due to take a step forward when a new community messaging system goes live this month as part of a trial in West Swindon.

The community messaging system has been helped along with funds from the Police and Crime Commissioner, and could be rolled out across the town by September of this year.

West Swindon Inspector Martyn Sweett has welcomed the move as a unique way to bring neighbourhood policing closer to the community.

“The way it works is a two-way messaging system between neighbourhood watch teams and the police,” he said.

“In due course other partners will also be able to engage in the process.

“We can send an alert out to groups of houses as appropriate, and within five seconds a message can be blasted out to a particular area or street.

“That encourages a bit of two-way feedback, both from ourselves and from the neighbour- hood watch teams.”