How police are using Snapchat

Snapchat — the self-destructing image app you probably shouldn’t send nudes with — is a favored form of communication among the selfie-taking, emoji-dropping, under-25 set. It is also, as of last Friday, the home of at least one … police department.


(West Midlands Police/Snapchat)

The West Midlands Police in Birmingham, England — you may be familiar with their Twitter antics — believes it’s the first police department in the world to join the platform. Per Keiley Gartland, a spokesperson for the department, the account is an effort to “[connect] with younger people and [help] them to feel they have a close connection with their local police force.”

Fair enough! After all, 71 percent of Snapchat’s users are 24 or younger. So how are the West Midlands Police forging these meaningful connections? To be fair, they’ve only been snapping a few days — but thus far, it seems like a hodgepodge of missing person’s posters and meme-y PSAs. You can’t report a crime via Snapchat. And because Snapchat is a private messaging app (i.e., you choose who you send messages to), the police can’t exactly snoop on you via your Snapchat friendship. Unless you sent a self-incriminating snap to westmidspolice directly, which — in this day and age! — perhaps isn’t unthinkable.

Anyway, this all serves as further proof that nothing fun and carefree can exist online without eventually being co-opted by the man/the olds. In the U.S., at least, we probably have some time left: Our largest police forces barely get the hang of Twitter.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Caitlin Dewey · July 22