October 01, 2012
Accenture Research Shows Citizen Support for Police use of
Digital and Social Media
SAN DIEGO, Calif.; Oct. 1, 2012 – Nearly all (92 percent) of citizens surveyed by Accenture (NYSE:ACN) in six countries want to support their police force and believe they have an important role to play in reporting crime (88 percent). However, the vast majority (84 percent) of almost 1300 respondents say they are only minimally informed of local police activities, according to a survey released by Accenture at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Citizens – from Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom – believe digital communication channels, including social media, can play a significant role in bridging the communication gap. Almost three-fourths (71 percent) of those surveyed say police use of digital channels can help overcome the communication gap , but only 20 percent believe their local police use digital channels.
The survey found almost three-fourths (72 percent) of respondents believe social media can be an effective tool to report crimes, generate suspect leads and support police investigations. Yet, only 13 percent of respondents said their local police are currently using social media as a communications channel. More than half of respondents (53 percent) believe the use of social media by police can improve police services and 47 percent believe it can prevent crime. Citizens also expressed preferences for specific social media platforms: 81 percent of respondents said they would most likely use Facebook to interact with police and 35 percent said they would use Twitter.
Almost one-fourth (23 percent) of respondents believe police should use smartphone and mobile applications to communicate with citizens and 50 percent said they would like to see an increase in the use of police websites and portals. Only 22 percent of those surveyed, however, said their police force is currently using dedicated websites and portals. The research found that police across all six countries continue to rely heavily on traditional media channels, including newspapers (69 percent) and radio or television news reports (45 percent), as their primary tools for one-way communication with citizens.
Despite citizens’ interest in the use of more digital channels, traditional community policing methods remain important. The majority (63 percent) of respondents still prefer to report a crime over the phone or in person to a police officer and more than half of respondents (51 percent) said that “seeing police on the street” instills confidence in local policing efforts. In fact, more than half of those surveyed (53 percent) would like to have a designated community police force contact. Additionally, 71 percent of respondents said they would interact with police more often if they had the option to remain anonymous when reporting a crime or providing information to support police investigations.
“The findings of this survey show a strong desire by citizens to change the way they interact with law enforcement agencies and to support their local police chiefs in delivering crime-fighting services in new ways,” said Ger Daly who leads Accenture’s global Defence & Public Safety business. “Citizens want to receive and share information with police through their method of choice, which increasingly is a digital and mobile channel and they are looking for ways to engage with police while reserving the option of anonymity.”
Speaking at the IACP annual conference, Tim Godwin, Accenture senior executive and retired U.K. Metropolitan Police Service deputy commissioner said, “The strong belief among citizens that digital technologies and social media channels can improve police services and prevent crime demonstrates the importance of police forces continuing to adopt new tools to foster two-way communication with citizens. By increasing the number of channels by which police communicate, they will gain valuable intelligence that can help prevent crime and secure prosecutions.”
The U.S. had the highest rate of respondents who felt “well informed” of local police activities (21 percent).
- More than three-fourths of U.S. respondents (78 percent) said they would like to see police use more digital channels to communicate with citizens.
- Seventy-seven percent believe that social media can aid investigations and help catch criminals and 56 percent of U.S. citizens believe social media can improve police services.
- Almost half of U.S. survey participants (47 percent) believe that social media use by police can prevent crime.
- More than half (52 percent) of U.S. respondents said they would like to have a community police force contact.
- Thirty-four percent of U.S. respondents believe police should make greater use of smartphone and mobile applications to communicate with citizens.
The lowest level of awareness of police activities was in the Netherlands, where only 12 percent felt “well informed.”
- The highest level of awareness of digital use was among U.S. respondents, where 27 percent said their police force currently used digital channels to communicate. Citizens in Germany cited the lowest level of awareness of digital use by police with 15 percent.
- The highest level of awareness of social media use was among Spanish respondents where 18 percent said their force currently use social media to communicate. This contrasts with 10 percent in Germany and 13 percent in the U.K.
- More than half of Spanish (53 percent) and Netherlands citizens (51 percent) believe that the use of social media can prevent crime. By contrast, 44 percent of Canadians and 41 percent of U.K. respondents believe social media can help prevent crimes.
- However, 77 percent of U.S. citizens believe that the use of social media can aid in investigating crimes and catching criminals. Spanish citizens (68 percent) are the least likely to hold this view.
- The majority of Spanish respondents (73 percent) said they would like to have a community police force contact. This was the highest level recorded among the six countries surveyed, followed by respondents from Germany (60 percent) and the U.K. (52 percent).
- The majority of respondents from Spain (86 percent) said they would interact with police more if they had the option to remain anonymous. This contrasts with 55 percent of respondents from the Netherlands and 62 percent from Canada.
- Ninety four percent of respondents in Germany said they felt safe in their communities. Canadian respondents had the next highest level at 92 percent.
The online citizen survey included 1,298 respondents from six countries, with 200 respondents each from Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom. Thirty percent of respondents live in urban areas, 26 percent reside in suburban areas and 45 percent live in rural areas or small towns. The overall margin of error for the study is ± 2.72 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Twenty nine percent of those completing the online survey were between 18 years and 39 years of age when the survey was conducted by Market Connections in June 2012.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with 257,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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