A new police initiative in Rome has seen Twitter users direct the city’s traffic wardens towards traffic offenders who are guilty of double parking, parking on the pavement or other issues that get on the nerves of others.
There has been a surge of public parking shaming due to the Twitter initiative. Over a thousand tweets were sent with location details and pictures to the initiative handlers, apparently the normally inefficient traffic wardens are now writing as many tickets in one hour than in one day.
This initiative seems to be the first of its kind and it is yet unsure whether it will catch on.
A growing social media presence of police forces, emergency services and government agencies has often been ignored, unless they seem to have an especially funny community manager. The Twitter account of Solihull Police became an internet sensation on the 30th of January 2013 after reporting on a petrol station crime.
The account covering the small town’s police news posted: ’48 cans of Red Bull stolen from the BP Garage, Chester Rd – how do these people sleep at night…’ That tweet went viral and was retweeted nearly 8000 times.
But these accounts warning of crime and reminding the public of events are a valuable outreach tool for the authorities, however with a rise of tip-offs and interaction, are these initiatives adding value to the community, or just a modern way of grassing?
The major use of social networks in this field have been aiding the other side. In most countries there are already hundreds of Facebook and Twitter accounts warning other drivers and passengers about upcoming police speed radars, public transport ticket inspectors and other minor civil disobedience.
The Waze app, a driving GPS service mixed with a social aspect, also relies on their users to announce if there is a traffic jam so that other users can find a different route. The app also notifies the driver of police speed traps and other potential disruptions.
A Berlin based Facebook page collects and sends out information whenever a ticket inspector is spotted and urges the fellow ‘Schwarzfahrer’, the German colloquial term for those who use public transport without paying for a ticket, to avoid that route or station. Apparently, using public transport in Berlin without a ticket is a national hobby and with the frequent updates, the inspectors are catching less and less people without their tickets. Much to the delight of the passengers without tickets.
Whether this is actually beneficial to the system remains unknown. The transport companies say that they are losing money due to selfish behavior of those who don’t buy a ticket, which correlates to a lack of funding for repairs and improvements. Which in turn affect the day to day passenger, paying or not.
So far it seems that every action, has an equal reaction. For every initiative, there seems to be another civil disobedience. Although the initiatives mean well, it does not guarantee success or popularity. Maybe due to the police initiative, the parking anarchy in Rome might see a slight decline. In the meantime, there will be several Italian car drivers cursing the invention of Twitter.