Rutland’s ‘cyber beat’ police officer trial has been extended by three months following positive feedback from members of the public.
PCSO Matt McDade took up the new post in September for an initial period of three months.
He performs the role of a traditional neighbourhood police officer – but online instead of up and down the street.
Senior officers at Leicestershire Police have been so impressed by PCSO McDade’s work – and that of colleague PCSO Ben Hill in Leicester –that the trial has now been extended until the end of March.
PCSO McDade has dealt with hundreds of enquiries via email, Facebook and Twitter over the past three months.
Subjects members of the public have raised with him have ranged from complaints about inconsiderate parking and queries about the location of Neighbourhood Watch groups through to allegations of serious sexual assault.
He said: “Many people have said they like the fact they can get in touch with me at the click of a button to report a concern or ask for some advice.
“More and more people use social media to communicate everyday and it seems a sensible step to ensure the police are adapting to that.
“I’ve had a very wide range of issues raised with me so far – which is exactly what we wanted.
“It’s been really enjoyable being part of the trial. People like the convenience of being able to get in touch without waiting in a queue on the telephone.”
PCSO McDade said there has been most demand for his services first thing in the morning, at lunch time, and then during the evening and he has adapted his shift pattern accordingly.
People of all ages – not just youngsters – have used social media to get in touch. PCSO McDade has also given talks about his work at a number of schools, youth groups and clubs and has visited pensioners’ groups to offer digital training and support.
PCSOs McDade and Hill attend bi-weekly meetings with senior officers to update them on their work and researchers from Nottingham Trent University will write a report on the effectiveness of the trial when it comes to an end.
Leicestershire Police has said the purpose is not to replace traditional, physical policing in neighbourhoods, but instead to provide an alternative and additional community service.
When the trial was launched back in September, Inspector Gavin Drummond, who is in charge of policing in Melton, Market Harborough and Rutland, said for many people their ‘community’ is not a geographic one but something that exists online – and Leicestershire Police needs to adapt to this societal change.
Follow PCSO McDade on Twitter at @lpdigitalmatt or search for PCSO Matt McDade on Facebook.
l What do you think about the cyber policing trial? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org