In an effort to tap into the potential of the social media in providing tip-offs regarding drug rackets, cricket betting, policemen demanding bribes, or criminal seeking protection money the Bangalore police are attempting to solicit the support of Tweetformants who can post Twitter messages about crimes that come to their notice.
Bangalore police Commissioner M N Reddi has now asked all his immediate sub-ordinates to maintain a presence on social media sites on the Internet in order to receive complaints from the public.
“Traditionally senior police officials have had limited public contact. They depend heavily on their subordinates or the media for information about crimes. Online crowdsourcing gives them a parallel version of an incident mostly from eyewitnesses or the victim. Even minor bits of information from the public can provide breakthroughs,” Reddi said.
Over the past month when tip-offs have been solicited from Tweetformants the Bangalore police have claimed to have received inputs from 10,400 Twitter account holders. Police officials attribute the growing base of ‘Tweet-in-formants’ to the promise of the police to maintain the anonymity of persons reporting crimes. “Anyone tweeting online about a crime is taken with utmost seriousness and reported to local officers who have to file a FIR, ” says the joint commissioner of police for crime Hemanth Nimbalkar said.
According to the police a gang of six persons were recently arrested on charges of eve-teasing and ganja peddling in a residential area on the basis of a Twitter tip off. In another case a senior citizen posted a Tweet about police laxity in tracing his missing grandchild forcing senior police officers to direct the police station to find the child.
“The jurisdictional officer was cautioned and told to swiftly act on the complaint or face action,” Nimbalkar said.
A shop owner was also recently booked under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) Act after some school authorities complained in a Twitter post that the shop was selling tobacco products to minors.
“So far the leads we have received on the Internet pertain to minor offences. But the tip-offs have been reliable and has helped us tackle issues faced by the community at the grassroots level,” says the DCP (Central) Sandeep Patil.
Following the recent arrest of an alleged surrogacy racketeer, KT Gurumurthy police received numerous tweets on other illegal surrogacy operators. “It’s an illegally thriving market. People familiar with such transactions are tipping us off on the matter and we are following up on such leads,” Nimbalkar says.
Police have been tweeting seeking public cooperation in solving cases of robbery, fake job certificates, internet crimes, fraud, hawala transactions and crimes against women. “While there is no alternative to filing criminal complaint in the police station for major offences, our effort is to speed up the criminal justice system and reduce the trust deficit that we face. We hope people will eventually have the confidence to approach the police department,” commissioner M N Reddi said.