Social media crimes at least 50% of front line policing? I don’t think so

UPDATE: The BBC have now amended the headline, but, as FullFact point out, there are still concerns about the accuracy of the story.

What looks like a silly and hyperbolic BBC headline about crimes on social media is getting a lot of coverage. On social media. Here I question whether it’s accurate. On social media

Trailing the always excellent Joshua Rozenberg programme Law in Action the BBC has run a story with a headline saying

Social media crimes ‘at least half’ of front-line policing

And Law in Action’s own page on the broadcast in question also says

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, head of the College of Policing…estimates that as much as half of a front-line officer’s daily workload is spent dealing with calls related to online disputes

I know the BBC has to publicise itself, and maybe the programme itself will support the assertions made, but the quotes attributed to Mr Marshall don’t do so. He says

[Reports of crime involving social media are] a real problem for people working on the front line of policing, and they deal with this every day…So in a typical day where perhaps they deal with a dozen calls, they might expect that at least half of them, whether around antisocial behaviour or abuse or threats of assault may well relate to social media, Facebook, Twitter or other forms

SO what he’s actually saying is that of the dozen or so calls that a front line officer receives a day, about half “may well” relate to social media. Now, I may be naive, but surely a front line police officer’s workload is about an awful lot more than receiving calls. Even if a call is often the precursor to further actions, Mr Marshall doesn’t suggest that the calls about social media inevitably lead to such further action. In fact, I would be amazed if they did, and, indeed, other remarks attributed to Mr Marshall and an unnamed officer suggest that many of these calls relate to obviously non-criminal matters, and the clear implication is that they will lead to no further action whatsoever.

Crimes involving or committed on social media are a serious societal and policing issue, and I am sure Law in Action itself will consider this in its usual measured and serious way, but for the BBC to suggest that the issue takes up more than half of front line policing resource seems to me to be hyperbolic and irresponsible.

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Filed under BBC, police, social media

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