update One of the greatest risks facing Queensland Police is young people expecting to be able to report crimes via the organisation's Facebook page, according to Greg Flint, acting superintendent for the Policelink Branch.
The Queensland Police Service's (QPS) media branch keeps up a presence in social media including Twitter and Facebook. Although this has reaped many benefits in keeping the community up to date with information, Flint told the G-Force 2011 conference in Melbourne today that QPS had encountered problems with younger people expecting to be able to report crime via its Facebook page.
"Our problem at the moment is that even though we clearly label on the Facebook site that it shouldn't be used to invoke a police response, the younger generation have an expectation that — they've put something there — the police will acknowledge and react to it," he said.
"That is a predominant risk at the moment, that we won't pick this up and action it appropriately."
QPS has recognised this risk and implemented a range of measures to ensure that the appropriate response is invoked to social media posts and messages when needed, Flint said.
Despite this hurdle, Flint said social media had been invaluable during the floods in January and Cyclone Yasi in February, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the page during the disasters.
"It is a great forum for imparting messages to the community and in keeping them informed. In some areas where phone services were impeded or down ... a lot of people were still using Facebook as a means to keep up to date," he said.
"I suspect if we didn't have that forum ... we would have been severely embarrassed in terms of our capacity to react."
Flint pointed out that the London Metropolitan Police had received photos through social media after the riots in London, but said that it was important to make sure the right systems were in place to handle such postings, something Queensland Police was working on.
"You can accept these things, but unless you can catalogue and manage it in a cogent way ... its not a lot of use to us. It's important now and it's something that we'll have to get our heads across."
The Policelink branch was established last year to deal with non-urgent crime reporting, such as property theft, through the 13 444 number, in order to keep the emergency 000 number clear. It can also be used to expand emergency response capabilities during disaster events.
The centre, located in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, takes some 80,000 calls per month, and has had close to 1 million since operations began in August 2010. Flint said to ensure high availability of the centre, it has four exchanges with 32 Alcatel-Lucent switches leading to it through dual pathways.
A big test of the branch's ability to ramp up during a crisis was during the floods. Flint said that despite little lead time, the branch performed well, with the first day having only a 20-minute waiting period at the worst time.
The most demanding times during both disasters were just after Queensland Premier Anna Bligh made media announcements, Flint said, with about 300 callers jumping onto the queue immediately after each press conference.
The centre is 24/7, and employs 370 full-time staff. At any one time, 113 employees can be working in the call centre; however, this can be expanded to 143 during major events.
Josh Taylor travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Genesys.
Updated at 11:12am, 26 August 2011: Queensland Police later clarified that the social media presence was handled by its media branch. Flint also clarified comments made around the London riots