Social media’s embrace by business is now commonplace. But it is with unbridled joy that I am now able to tell you about an online community that is dedicated to connecting crime fighters nationally! Yes, you heard me correctly, there is an online community for Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement to share tips, information, crime fighting resources and connect with each other to advance the ability to catch a criminal.
While the LexisNexis Law Enforcement Community for Accurint users is a extremely gated community (a fortress in fact) that is available only to badged officials who have already been pre-screened users of the Accurint Law Enforcement tool, I can share information about this site as we tackled a number of challenging issues in its social design such as confidentiality, engaging nontraditional social media users, and designing for professionals with little time. (Accurint is an online search tool to help Law Enforcement find critical data about criminals. This tool makes the crime fighting software we see on the cop TV shows look like child’s play!) The community launched this week and all I can say is “Criminals, beware! The world is a safer place now due to social media.”
The LexisNexis Law Enforcement Community was created to connect the power of the collected wisdom of national Law Enforcement – to allow those men and women in blue who are dedicated to keeping us safe – to share information with each other. In the past, Law Enforcement typically collaborated with their local peers and experts. But oftentimes, cross-jurisdictional information is critical to catch a criminal as bad guys do know how to travel. (As an aside, I learned through this project an interesting fact: that crime waves typically move west to east.) Often, a gang will send a gang member to a new city to set up a post, recruit new gang members and start to establish their territory.
In the past, when a Law Enforcement group first saw a crime wave, for example suspicious potential gang activity, it could take weeks or months to identify the gang operations and identify them with predictability. Now, through this new community, Law Enforcement is able to share information about key activities and tap into the wisdom of experts. They can share, for example, photos of gang identifiers and tattoos and even participate in a dedicated group for gang management. One of the more unique aspects of this community is that the exchanges need to be limited to discussions of best practice and past experiences as Law Enforcement can never share information about a current or open crime online. As all exchanges are subject to discovery, they refrain from message posting about anything related to a current case. (This applies to other fields as well. Medical professionals can discuss general facts about a patient in hopes of best treatment. Marketing professionals share strategy and operations ideas, and the list goes on.) This is unlike almost any other professional network where the nature of the collaboration is typically about the here-and-now. But, as the past does tend to dictate the future, lessons learned and expert experiences can make all the difference when brainstorming and trying to close a case.
This is one of many powerful examples of how the community is working to make the world a better place. There is a place for all types of crime fighting resources on the Law Enforcement Community: sexual predator information, policing tactics, information about new technology, investigation best practice, Amber Alert support information. All are being share virtually. As a result, our Law Enforcement superheroes are now constantly connected and collaborating as one giant force.
Law Enforcement using social networking? While that may seem unlikely, this community was shaped directly in response to the needs of Law Enforcement as something that could be deeply useful to them as long as it was clearly secure and only accessible by validated law enforcement professionals. Therefore, this community can be found only through Accurint. The challenges we faced when defining this online community were numerous.
- First, we needed to create a customized experience that would benefit Law Enforcement collaboration while maintaining the ability for undercover agents to use the system, with our knowledge so we can serve their needs, while remaining, well, under cover.
- Second, much of the law enforcement peer exchange is so highly confidential that it needs to happen in-person or by protected phone lines. However, officials needed the ability to contact each other and arrange confidential settings for information exchange so we included a secure instant message system so they can make connection arrangements.
- Third, we needed the ability for members to be able to clearly identify experienced experts so the membership profile information was highly adapted to be able to display demarcations of experiences such as length of service, awards and other indications of trust.
- And fourth, we needed to design the site in a way that would accommodate their fast information access needs to include significant ease of use. The site, now in its early beta period, has been very well received largely due to the attention that was paid to servicing their unique needs.
It is with great honor that I, with my team at Leader Networks have been able to guide the strategy and operations for this site for our client LexisNexis Government Services. I know I sleep more safely at night now that this community exists. While chances are you are not a law enforcement professional, please help spread the word so that cops, FBI etc. learn, join and benefit from it!