The internet, smartphones and social media have become tools for citizens to perform activities that fall within the range of police work and the work of other organisations dealing with public security. Like modern Sherlock Holmes citizens assist the police and go beyond. They report on crimes, investigate, identify suspects and form vigilante groups. Citizens employ social media for criminal investigation, for crime prevention or for ensuring public security independent of police and to watch and publicly share actions with law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

Open data sources have proved to be valuable for gathering intelligence and solving crimes and open up professional work to citizens. The information, tools and expert knowledge have spread through the web. Social media-DIY (do-it-yourself) Policing by citizens puts pressure on professional security workers that now have people and organisations from all over the world on the sidelines or at the centre, doing some or all of their work. Citizens, however, have neither the authority nor the same legal framework for their actions as police forces do.

DIY Policing is an opportunity as it makes the resources of citizens available for public security organizations. Citizen interaction with police forces can have a positive effect on police legitimacy.
DIY Policing is a threat as vigilantes carry out retributive actions that can endanger fairness, respect and democratic values. Evidence posted by citizens lacks context and remains unclear, raising the chance for citizens to be wrongfully accused. Undefined legal frameworks threaten police-citizen collaboration. Furthermore, the involvement of citizens can produce an overwhelming amount of data that is difficult to handle for law enforcement agencies.

The key questions for many security planners when advancing a social media strategy therefore relate to the consequences of where and how to cooperate with citizens, when to take control and how to avoid negative ethical and legal effects.

State of the Art: Dutch leadership

The state-of-the-art analysis of EU Project?Medi@4Sec?shows related research that describes different forms of DIY Policing and the identified impact on law enforcement practice. DIY Policing is in many ways a phenomenon of growing relevance for public security planners. On the one hand, researchers see citizens taking coordinated action in places where public security falls short or fails. Citizens often investigate when the police have given up, do not have enough resources, or cannot respond at a speed that the public expects. Thus the question arises as to whether DIY Policing can become an indicator for public security organizations to find the hot spots in which to increase their efforts or to reduce them and allow citizens to take over. On the other hand, it appears that (especially Dutch) police forces are making a concerted effort in co-creating security jointly with citizens. The many platforms and initiatives that are emerging underline the Dutch forerunner role in making best use of and, to a certain degree, encouraging DIY activities.

DIY in many ways

We describe patterns of DIY Policing practices that we identified as part of our studies of best practices and lessons learned. Citizens use social media to address public security issues. They ORGANISE PROTESTS, correct what they think is wrong in DIY JUSTICE, perform DIY CITIZEN JOURNALISM, establish their own DIY ACCOUNTS social media accounts. Citizens conduct DIY INTELLIGENCE, oversee law enforcement as DIY WATCH DOG or conduct their own DIY INVESTIGATION. They organize NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH communities.

Wide range of ethical issues

The main ethical risks of DIY Policing platforms include unjustified citizen interventions (vigilantism); overburdening of police with data; overburdening police with data whose utility is burdensome to verify; and disproportionate visitation of suspicion on individuals from certain social/ethnic groups. Benefits include the creation of a new model of ?active citizenship? and social responsibility; greater security for the public via preventive measures and better identification of criminals; and increased trust in police generated through co-creation of security. Key legal risks of DIY Policing platforms include disproportionate privacy intrusions; data protection violations; and vigilantism leading to illegal acts.


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