British police use Facebook to gather evidence

Manchester police have created a Facebook application to collect leads for investigations

The Greater Manchester Police force is looking for friends -- on Facebook.

It has created a Facebook application to collect leads for investigations, marking the first use of the social networking site by UK law enforcement.

The application delivers a real-time feed of police news and appeals for information. Next to that content is a feature to share a particular story with other friends in a person's network, as well as post comments.

One of the recent updates is an appeal asking for information about four men, one of whom was armed with an axe, who robbed a betting shop.

A "Submit Intelligence" link takes a Facebook user to the police Web site where they can anonymously submit tips. Another link leads to the videos on YouTube featuring information on the police force, ongoing investigations and other advisories.

One video contains closed-circuit TV footage of two men in hooded sweatshirts seen near the place where a 15-year-old, Jessie James, was shot and killed in Manchester in November 2006.

So far about 750 people have put the application on their profile, the police said. They estimate about seven million of the 59 million worldwide Facebook users live in the UK.

The application has received a universally positive response. "Good thinking GMP [Greater Manchester Police]!" wrote Facebook user Sammie Jane. "This is a sure-fire way to branch out to the younger generation and also to encourage anonymous information."

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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