Scrawling graffiti on the walls is a sure-fire way of getting the attention of the police for anyone who is so inclined, but it’s unlikely to go down too well with your average law enforcement officer. However, a new kind of ‘social graffiti’, the popular Grafetee app, could be about to change all that.
For those who don’t know, Grafetee is a popular location-based bookmarking application which has already taken Finland by storm, and has recently been made available in English for the rest of the world on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. The app was originally designed as a networking tool, allowing users to share information about real-world places and events from the web, which would then be visible to other users nearby.
Grafetee employs something called geo-fencing technology, and is sensitive to both local time and a user’s current location, enabling it to display only the most relevant content to users. Content is viewed via feeds, such as third party data sources like Wikipedia and Foursquare, as well as public feeds created by other users.
The app has dozens of potential uses, yet one function that the app’s developers never envisaged is proving to be a real hit with both users and local authorities alike – the ability to fight crime.
The Poliisi, Finland’s national police force, has been so impressed by Grafetee’s usefulness that they’ve recently decided to adopt the app as a new, secret weapon in their fight against the Scandinavian country’s bad guys.
Apparently, the Poliisi have decided that Grafetee’s unique location-based emphasis makes it the perfect public safety tool from which they can engage members of the public and encourage them to report any criminal activity. With just a single tap, users can post a message on Grafetee detailing anything suspicious they have seen, and the Poliisi will be ready to respond. Similarly, the Poliisi can use the app to alert the public to dangerous situations, or even use it to call back up when and where it’s needed.
Grafetee isn’t a replacement for the emergency telephone number 121, which members of the public are still advised to use in real emergency cases, but it’s a great way for the public to keep the police informed and also to gain feedback from the police.
Juha Huttunen, co-founder of Grafetee, expressed his delight that the local police were now testing the app, adding that their feedback would help to in their efforts to improve the software:
“We’re extremely excited to have the Finnish Police on board. Their testing and the ensuing refinements to the app will help us create truly useful location based services on our Grafetee platform.”
Petri Marjamaa, a spokesman for the Finnish police, added:
“We are adopting Grafetee to test how a social media service is applicable to make the neighborhood safer and to help residents to influence their own neighborhood’s safety.”
Whether or not Grafetee catches on as a crime fighting tool remains to be seen, but with numerous police forces across the world already embracing more established social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook (check out their cool wall like image top), we can surely expect to see many more innovative uses of social media by law enforcement agencies in the future.