Much to the satisfaction of the police, many citizens chat via Twitter with local police officers from their neighborhood. "Social media are a very important way for the originally rather closed police to be in contact with citizens," says Janinne van den Berg, Manager of the Social Media Policy of the National Police.
The annual population census, Veiligheidsmonitor 2012, shows that with respect to security, 10 percent of all the contacts that police had with citizens was via the social media. It is the first time that social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube became part of this investigation.
Van den Berg says that reactions are also sent via the social media during events. "Last year the Java-eiland in Amsterdam was full during Queen’s Day. Then we tweeted to discourage visitors from going there. Many responded that they went somewhere else or asked where they might go instead."
Van den Berg also says that Twitter users respond regularly to investigation-tweets. They tweet about a missing child or a robbery that they have just witnessed or how a child or suspect looks like, and also ask for additional information about a place .
Despite the increasing use of social media by the police, the interaction could be better. Van den Berg says, "It happens more than once that a message is retweeted, so it is redirected."
Of the five thousand community police officers in the Netherlands, about fifteen hundred are on Twitter. The local police forces and the national police force all have Twitter accounts. Contact with the police is easier because you can make an appeal to any policeman from your armchair. Van den Berg adds, "Often people have reservations about placing a call to the police. Through social media, this is easier."