A ‘FANTASTIC idea’ saw Chichester police taking to Facebook to make their presence known throughout the community.
Operation Request, which was held from 4pm to 11pm yesterday (June 28), saw neighbourhood police throughout the district publicising their whereabouts on Facebook and immediately answering requests for a police presence in the community.
The Chichester Police Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chipolice was inundated with pictures and updates as the team visited 97 different locations throughout the district.
Some of the locations were pre-determined, following surveys carried out beforehand, but other locations were visited purely following requests for a presence on the night.
According to Inspector Will Rolls of Chichester Police, Sussex Police is one of the leading forces throughout the country when it comes to using social media to help out in the communities.
“Policing continues to progress through the ages. We need to embrace it and embrace what’s out there,” he said.
The operation allowed the police to answer critics who might claim they never see a police presence in their area.
Insp Rolls added: “It’s a fantastic idea and a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with our community.
“One of the most regular things you hear is ‘we never see the police in this area’.
“It’s a chance to show people we’re out there and be visible where they want us.”
Sergeant Alan Fenn, one of the key organisers of the operation, emphasised the officers who took part in the operation were not doing anything they would not ordinarily do on a normal shift – they were just highlighting what they were doing to people online.
“If you look at the entire work of the teams tonight that’s what they do every day of the year,” he said.
This modern twist on seeing the traditional bobby on patrol was hailed on the internet throughout the operation.
One message sent to the police on the evening read: “I think what you are doing on Facebook is great! You’re bringing the police force back into the communities, something that is needed. I’m going go get my daughters to send you friend requests as kids are always on here and with the police on here they can see that you really are here to help and not just someone to be scared of.”
PCSO Lisa Shadbolt, who co-ordinated the operation by responding to Facebook requests and directing the teams, said after the operation: “We’re getting good positive feedback from the community themselves. We’re certainly getting lots requests asking ‘go to this location’. There’s a lot of publicity which is obviously a good thing.
“Certainly in terms of the number of updates put out it’s covering such a large area of the district that we can tell the public really do benefit from it.”
For a full report of the operation see next week’s Observer, which will include pictures uploaded on the night of officers at locations throughout the district.