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North Wales Police

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yglas homej Y Glas   DCC Clive Wolfendale interview

North Wales Police launched its new online hub, “Y Glas” (The Blues), on the 27th April.

With bold typography and rough-edged feel, it doesn’t feel like a typical police site. For starters, it tries to avoid the word ‘police’ altogether. Instead, Y Glas is an interactive hub, a single entry page that glues together the NWP’s various online initiatives. These range from blogs and online crime maps to new social networking and community experiments on Facebook and YouTube.

You could say that Y Glas is ahead of its time.

Why do North Wales Police need Y Glas?

“We already have a police website,” explains Deputy Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale, “and it’s got quite a lot of interactive functionality. You can view your local police teams, online crime maps, see a helicopter log, read rolling news, features and blogs. We’ve even got YouTube and Facebook links. But as far as engagement is concerned, the site hasn’t been as successful as we wanted it to be. It’s not bad. And it’s been groundbreaking in its time. But it’s also very traditional; very much Web 1.0.”

“Two years ago, I decided we’d create our own portal and give people ownership of it. And it’s worked. But the whole thing has been overtaken by social networking. Facebook, Bebo and MySpace own this world now. So what on earth is the point of doing your own thing?”

“So I wanted to move to the next stage. People always say that they want more bobbies on the beat and we’ve done a lot of work on physical visibility in North Wales. But people are also choosing to spend more of their time online, so I think it’s a real mistake to turn your back on it.”

The driving force behind the creation of Y Glas was to develop a method of connecting and communicating with the local community. The new Web 2.0* elements extend the NWP’s online reach into social networking, providing places where the public can engage with police officers directly. Think policing ‘on demand’.

Why do the police want to be on Facebook?

“The dilemma you have as a police force is that ‘do you get Web 2.0 or should you steer clear of it?’ And it’s a good point. People have a right to ask why the police want to get engaged in this particular world. But I’m pretty firm in the view that there’s a responsibility on the police service to be visible to all sections of the community who want us to be visible. Y Glas isn’t about monitoring people. It’s a method of connecting and communicating with local communities.”

“Increasingly, more and more people, of all ages and types, are choosing to spend their discretionary time on the Internet. Not in the pub or in the library or in community meetings or interacting socially in other ways. They’re choosing to do it online, through social networking, through accessing special interest sites, through Skyping, however way they want to do it.”

“I respect the right for anybody going about their lawful business, not to want to engage with the police if that’s the way they want to be. But I think there is an absolute onus on the police service to be in these new places if people want us. As an accessible presence. And also, to some extent, as a reassuring presence. Because this isn’t a world that is barred to us. We are prepared to be in there, to explore it, and to look at what is concerning people.”

How will the police use Facebook and YouTube?

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got one or two ‘champions’ across the force,” explains DCC Clive Wolfendale. “They really do get [the idea of interaction] and have already proved that this Web 2.0 approach can work and make some dramatic changes.”

Penmaenmawr Community Beat Manager PC Mike Smith is one of NWP’s Facebook ‘champions’. “He gets it 100 per cent and he’s done some ground breaking work with demonstrable value to the local community,” explains Wolfendale. “Things like: youth engagement, crime awareness, ‘adopt a street’ and encouraging people to look for new jobs. And he’s done it all through social networking. He’s built up a respectable group of people who he can do business with on a local level.”

With Y Glas, anybody looking for their local police officer has now got that ability. Via NWP’s Facebook page, you can find out who they are, their direct mobile phone number and email account.

Is this the start of something big?

“Y Glas is a hub, a single page that represents the best of everything we do and points you towards these best bits — the interactivity. I think it’s immediately different to anybody coming into it. And it had to be a little bit off the wall, intriguing and visually attractive. Something that young people can relate to, although I’m not sure whether that’s ever possible. We don’t want to turn anybody off with it. We wanted it to look familiar to a teenager who lives their life on such sites.”

“So what you see now is the start of where it will go. Every six months, we’ll create a new solution and add it to the content on the hub page, such as Twitter and Bebo. For me what’s important is that we’re capitalising on existing strong products, not reinventing the wheel. Not only is Y Glas familiar to people but it’s extremely cost-effective.”

“So I think we’re ready for Web 2.0. A year ago? Probably not. People were still coming to terms with the last iteration of the web. What I will say is that you won’t see anything like this on a police website. I can guarantee that. Unashamed, deliberate footsteps into the social networking world. Some people think it’s a scary world. Some people think it shouldn’t be part of policing. But by using Facebook and YouTube, we’re meeting the web world on its own terms.”

Y Glas is online now at www.yglas.com and co-exists alongside the current North Wales Police website — www.north-wales.police.uk.

* What is Web 2.0? The term describes web development and design that focuses on interaction, collaboration, content sharing and community building.

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On the Facebook beat with PC Mike Smith

by Dean on May 20, 2009

policeman facebook On the Facebook beat with PC Mike Smith

PC Mike Smith is the Community Beat Manager for the small town of Penmaenmawr in North Wales and he’s recently become something of a celebrity.

As one of the Facebook ‘champions’ in the North Wales Police, he’s been experimenting with the idea of community policing over social networks. His virtual work is one of the reasons that the new Y Glas police hub page was created. The BBC, S4C, local radio, even the Home Office have all sat up and taken notice.

Why are North Wales Police on Facebook?

The idea behind Y Glas is to connect to local people using modern technology — blogs, interactive crime maps and YouTube videos. The story starts with Facebook.

“I was on my own my personal [Facebook account],” explains PC Mike Smith, “and I put in a search for ‘Penmaenmawr’ just to see if there was anyone there. And all these names kept coming up. I didn’t know any of these people and the likelihood of me ever meeting them was nil. They probably hadn’t got a clue who their local bobby was either. So I thought I’d set up a Penmaenmawr site for myself and I sent messages to those people that said: ‘if you want to have a say in local policing, come and join this page’. And a lot of them did.”  

At the last count, PC Mike Smith’s ‘Penmaenmawr & Dwygyfylchi Community Police’ group had 116 followers. It’s a simple enough page. There’s some contact information and some related local links. The Wall, meanwhile, acts as an ongoing dialogue between Mike and his Facebook ‘friends’. He uses it to publicise news and events, to appeal for information about local crimes and to post video clips.

“There’s no way I would have met these people in Penmaenmawr,” adds Smith. “But on Facebook they’ve found me and I can reach them all instantly. If you’re trying to get a message to people in the street, it’s a lot harder and much more time consuming.” 

What do the police actually do on Facebook?

“All of my initiatives are run locally,” says PC Mike Smith. “I started off with an ‘adopt a street’ campaign, which asks people to adopt their own street and for neighbours to get together to tidy it up. They point out any cracks in the pavement, broken street lights, empty grit bins… and then they come to me. I have an agreement with Conwy council that I’ll action anything that’s been flagged up by ‘adopt a street’ within seven days.”

“I also ran an environmental action day; a clean up of the local area. Part of this was collecting scrap metal, which we then sold in Bangor. With the proceeds from that we bought tracksuits the local U16s… Then there’s the job club I’ve set up, where Careers Wales come over to Penmaenmawr once every three months, and spend a couple of hours in the community centre.”

“The latest thing is Bluelight. Basically, it starts off with discos for 13-17 year-old kids. The first one is on the 31st of July in Penmaenmawr and it consists of a large marquee where the main disco is and another marquee – the ‘chill out zone’ – where the kids can go to have drinks and food. Also in this marquee are the Bluelight partners: the Police Arson Reduction Team, Air Ambulance, drugs and alcohol counsellors, RAF and Army careers, Careers Wales, etc. They are there doing interactive demonstrations. If the kids want to go to them they can. Childline are also involved.”

What do the police hope to achieve?

PC Mike Smith uses Facebook as a way of engaging with local people when he’s not walking the beat. “What we want to be doing is proactive policing; stopping crimes before they happen,” he says. He’s aiming to foster a sense of community that will bloom online and spill back over into the real world. Put it this way: it costs a lot less to spend money on marketing and funding local initiatives than dealing with the consequences of crime.

On Facebook at least, North Wales Police are trying to connect with users on their own terms and in a familiar environment. Not only is it convenient for the public to connect with the police in this way, but it does wonders for the profile of the police themselves. It humanizes them and demystifies them. It shows that the police are willing to be open, visible and accessible, whether you live on a housing estate in Colwyn Bay or a cottage on a remote hillside.

So is this the future of community policing? It’s early days. North Wales Police have plans to extend their online presence beyond Facebook and YouTube to Bebo and Twitter. But it’s important to remember that this Web 2.0 approach to policing relies on what police officers do using the new technology, rather than the new technology itself. The Penmaenmawr project, for example, wouldn’t be a success without the dedication and enthusiasm of PC Mike Smith.

And what about a backlash? Has anyone objected to having the police on Facebook? “I envisaged a few nasty comments when I went on there,” says Smith warily. “But I’ve not had any. Perhaps it’s because Penmaenmawr is too small an area. So far so good.”

Y Glas is online now at www.yglas.com and co-exists alongside the current North Wales Police website — www.north-wales.police.uk.

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Y Glas – North Wales Police

by Dean on May 4, 2009

yglas homej Y Glas   North Wales Police

Having already done some consultancy work for North Wales Police, I recently wrote this piece for the launch of NWP’s new Web 2.0 hub – Y Glas. It begins…

North Wales Police is enhancing its online presence by launching a new online hub, “Y Glas”, on the 27th April. This new, Web 2.0-inspired page is designed to highlight the force’s online initiatives, which range from blogs and online crime maps to new social networking and community initiatives on Facebook and YouTube. Y Glas will exist alongside the current North Wales Police website.

What is Y Glas?

Y Glas (“The Blues”) represents a new way of interacting and engaging with the North Wales Police force. Officers are now contactable by phone, email and Facebook, via a PC or a laptop at home, or anywhere via an Internet-connected mobile phone.

It’s not a monitoring device. There is no intent to ‘police the Internet’. Instead, Y Glas is a method of connecting and communicating with the local community. The new Web 2.0 elements provide places where the public can engage with police officers directly, one to one. It’s policing ‘on demand’.

North Wales Police on Facebook

Y Glas connects to the North Wales Police Facebook page, which offers online crime maps, YouTube videos and links to Neighbourhood Policing Teams in the North Wales area. By clicking on one of these teams, the public can view details of their local police station, find contact numbers, view relevant local news bulletins and see who their local police officers are. 

North Wales Police officer Mike Smith is reinventing the idea of local policing with his pioneering work on Facebook. Smith runs a number of local initiatives using his Facebook profile as a contact point and a broadcast mechanism. These have involved youth engagement, crime awareness and encouraging people to look for new jobs. As a ‘Facebook champion’ for the North Wales Police, Smith continues to prove that online policing not only works, but that there’s a demand for it.

YouTube, blogs and interactive maps

Y Glas also connects to the North Wales Police YouTube channel. This features various videos that illustrate the good work that is done by Neighbourhood Policing Teams. 

North Wales Police was one of the first forces in the UK to add blogs to its website and is committed to continuing this raw-edged, transparent communication channel. The North Wales Police website currently features four regular bloggers — Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom, Deputy Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale, Assistant Chief Constable Ian Shannon, and Director of Finance & Resources Mike Parkin.

Y Glas also links to interactive crime maps for the North Wales Police area. These consist of a scrollable digital map with relevant crime statistics for the area being viewed.

Finally, Y Glas has linked up with the Think U Know website run by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. The website gives children in age groups 5-7, 8-10 and 11-16 helpful advice and tips on using the Internet. A ‘Report Abuse’ button gives children an easy, secure way of reporting problems such as cyber bullying, hacking, harmful web content and unwanted sexual behaviour.

Why do the police need Y Glas?

Y Glas enhances and revitalises the North Wales Police’s Internet presence, enabling it to connect with a new audience and provide another entry point into the existing website and social networking spin-offs.

“We get 90,000 visitors to the website,” says Ian Davies,  Head of Projects and Customer Services for North Wales Police. “In contrast, we get 45,000 calls per month to our control room. People are looking for information and the web is a convenient way to access this information on an anonymous basis.”

“People always say that they want more bobbies on the beat,” says Deputy Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale, “and we’ve done a lot of work on physical visibility in North Wales.”

“But people are also choosing to spend more of their time on the Internet, so it’s a real mistake for us to turn our back on it… People have a right to say: ‘why would the police want to get engaged in this particular world?’ But I’m pretty firm in the view that there’s a responsibility on the police service to be visible to all sections of the community who want us to be visible. There is absolute onus and responsibility on the police service to be online if people need us.”

North Wales Police is one of the most technologically advanced police forces in the country. Every officer in the force already has a Blackberry mobile phone (enabling them to get their email and be contactable by the public), while key officers are engaging with local people via Facebook and making local videos using Flip camcorders.

The Y Glas brings all of these initiatives and platforms together to showcase just what 21st Century policing has to offer.

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Social Networking & Web 2.0 Policing

by Dean on January 1, 2009

north wales police Social Networking & Web 2.0 Policing

Last year, I researched and wrote an 18-page report for North Wales Police, which looks at how the police could use today’s social networking technologies as part of community policing programmes.

The report, entitled ‘Social Networking & Web 2.0 Policing’, looks at how several organisations have already established themselves on the most popular social networks – Bebo, MySpace and Facebook.

Several police forces in the UK, US and Canada have already launched profiles on social-networking sites. Greater Manchester Police, for example, is already represented on Bebo, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

The aim is straightforward but ambitious. Beyond basic brand reinforcement, social networks can provide a place where web users can report crimes (often anonymously), chat with police officers and help fight crime.

The report will be published on the NWP website in 2009.

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