The Network Effect – The profound and positive impact on community engagement

Abstract: The capacity to access collective intelligence is the defining transformative phenomenon of the Digital Age. This digital transformation has given rise to what is best known as The Network Effect: the fundamental shift from information hierarchies to information networks. And those who have the courage to embrace the network effect quickly discover that hierarchies are no match for networks, especially when it comes to efficient and effective community policing and public engagement strategies.

The CRIMEWATCH Network is Making Communities Across Pennsylvania Safer. 

Simply put, the network effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a good or service increases its value as more and more people use it.  When the network effect occurs, its intrinsic, positive value to a civil society is immeasurable. A classic example is the telephone.

Today, the phenomenon is occurring across Pennsylvania right before our very eyes. Through rapid police department deployments across the Commonwealth, and public engagement levels never seen before, the CRIMEWATCH network is not only expanding rapidly, it’s proving to be more valuable to the police departments and the communities they serve and protect, than ever expected.

A New and Transparent Dialogue

The original goal of the CRIMEWATCH digital platform was to empower members of the Pennsylvania law enforcement community to quickly organize and disseminate public safety information, and to allow the public to report suspected criminal activity. The CRIMEWATCH network provided a new, transparent and two-way communication stream between law enforcement and the communities they serve. 

Local and regional police departments use CRIMEWATCH portals to disseminate news about crimes their departments are investigating, arrests that have been made, suspects and fugitives being sought, public service announcements, missing-person alerts, court-case outcomes and other law enforcement-related information. The information is distributed to the press and  public, from a single entry, through CRIMEWATCH’s vast network of PD websites, connected social media, a widely used mobile application and closed circuit television network.

The Network Effect – In the Beginning

At first, it was Sheriff James Muller in Adams County, followed by the PA Crime Stoppers program and in 2013, a handful of courageous police chiefs (15 to be exact) and one forward-thinking county district attorney, Ed Marsico, Jr., from Dauphin County, made the conscious decision to implement a new, cutting-edge technology: The CRIMEWATCH digital platform.

At the end of 2014, there were 19 unique CRIMEWATCH websites that served 319,172 visitors. The total combined social media reach of these police departments was 845,000 and the platform generated just over 1,000 actionable tips from the public.

  (Above) A snapshot of graphically represented CRIMEWATCH Network activity generated from law enforcement content push and resulting online community engagement.

(Above) A snapshot of graphically represented CRIMEWATCH Network activity generated from law enforcement content push and resulting online community engagement.

When CRIMEWATCH released its annual impact report (year ending 2016) to its participating Pennsylvania law enforcement members, the numbers were staggering:

·      CRIMEWATCH continued its rapid growth and expansion, serving over 120+ PA police departments and law enforcement agencies.

·      Unique CRIMEWATCH PD website visitor traffic has surged 1466% since 2014, topping 5,000,000 visitors in 2016.

·      Surpassed expectations in all key performance indicators: unique content generated, public alerts, tips received, warrants distributed, case closures and crime clearances.

·      The total reach of the CRIMEWATCH network surged past 20,000,000 making it one of the largest media distributors in PA.

·      Armed with content from CRIMEWATCH, the public has responded very positively by providing PA police agencies with over 4,246 actionable tips in 2016.