With over 150 000 followers on Twitter, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has been able to reach around two million citizens on the social network, getting important info to them faster than it would through other traditional forms of media.

The SAPS set up its Twitter and Facebook accounts back in 2011 to incorporate social media as a tool in the fight against crime.

Through social media, police are able to send out alerts, crime prevention tips, results on police operations and have citizens share the information on their own timelines and help spread the information.

Alerts on kidnappings and hijackings are among some of the most shared information on Twitter and Facebook.

“Social media has empowered our followers to safely contribute and to actively participate in the fight against crime,” said Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, head of SAPS Corporate Communication.

“We are not yet where we would like to be but we are doing very well and I believe that all the initiatives that we’ve put in place and enhancement that we will soon be rolling out will bear fruit.”

The SAPS also said their accounts help in dispelling rumours and incorrect information that is circulated.

During the recent spate of xenophobic attacks, a few users were posting and sharing a photo an old photo from the 2008 attacks, presenting the photo as one that had been taken this year. A member of the SAPS social media team verified the origin of the picture and SAPS was in this way able to dispel misconceptions that were caused by the picture which was being retweeted.

“Following this timely intervention, our followers spread the word that the picture was an old picture and is not from the recent attacks on foreign nationals. Our followers became our messengers who spread the message,” said Makgale.

As part of its aim to reach more users, particularly the youth, the SAPS has ventured into other forms of social media such as Instagram and YouTube and is currently pushing content onto the two platforms.

[Source – SAPS, image – Twitter]