Twitter makes police search national topic

AN APPEAL from Battle Police to help find a missing nine-year-old girl came to national attention, thanks to a popular social networking website.

The alarm was raised at 8.30pm last Friday (May 18) when the girl was discovered missing from her home in the Coronation Gardens area of Hurst Green.

Half a dozen police officers were on the scene immediately, with back up officers from Bexhill, the police dog unit and the Sussex Police helicopter put on standby.

An officer found the girl safe and well at a neighbour’s house just 15 minutes later.

But by that time a police appeal on social networking website Twitter had seen the alert go nationwide, reaching hundreds of people across the country within minutes.

Battle Neighbourhood Policing Team’s Twitter account, called @Battle_Police, sent a message out online asking people to keep an eye out for the girl.

Users of the website began to spread the word and before long @Battle_Police was ‘trending’ across the UK, meaning the missing girl was one of the most talked about topics on Twitter.

Hours later the story was still trending in London.

Over the next two days, @Battle_Police answered numerous ‘Tweets’ and questions about the girl to update the Twitter community that she had been found.

PCSO James Armstrong, Rother District’s Public Engagement Officer, said: “This outstanding response from communities across the country just shows how instrumental social media can be in getting information out quickly and I’d like to thank all those people who were so interested in getting this girl home safely.”

He added: “I feel confident that if she had gone missing for any long amount of time and was not just next door, we would have had sightings very quickly.

“Friends of the girl’s mother Tweeted the force thanking them for their quick response.”

On the back of this success, Battle, Rye and Bexhill Police will launch their own Facebook pages today (Friday).

PCSO Armstrong said: “These pages will provide similar information to that of our Twitter accounts but will also be a place to find pictures of what we’re doing, up and coming events, crime prevention advice and just to have a chat with local Officers so please take a look at the pages and ‘Like’ us to keep up to date.

“I’d like to stress that these extra forms of communication are not about replacing face to face contact with local officers, they are a natural extension to the work we already do in the communities we serve.”

n To find out what your local police are up to, log on to www.twitter.com, search for @Battle_Police, @Rye_Police or @Bexhill_Police and hit ‘follow’.