Tower Hamlets police chief tunes in to Streetlife to tackle crime

Police are using a social media network to reach hundreds of households in London’s East End through home computers and iPhones.

The Met’s Tower Hamlets division became the first in London to use the Streetlife network when it went live on Friday to reach almost 500 followers already signed up to the network.

First message is from the boss himself, Borough Commander Dave Stringer, who appeals for help to “drive down crime and antisocial behaviour” in neighbourhoods.

Social media was becoming “an increasingly important way for us to communicate at a very local level to understand your problems,” he writes.

Limehouse police station then put out an invitation for people to drop in for a chat during Open Weekend.

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This was followed by Pc Lee Warwick and support officer Damian Bird recalling the duathalon they completed for Cancer Research when they cycled from the police station to ‘The Angel of the North’ in Newcastle, then ran the ‘Great North’ half-marathon before returning to Limehouse last Wednesday.

Lee went in for the challenge after both his father and a colleague died of cancer, Streetlife followers were told.

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Streetlife began after its founder Rupert Jermyn’s flat was burgled in 2010. It gave him the idea of setting up neighbourhood networks across London where households would watch out for each other.

“Rupert wanted to ask neighbours if they saw anything about the burglary, but didn’t want to knock on doors at night,” explained Streetlife’s Nina Whittaker.

“He knew how to contact friends through social media, but not people in his neighbourhood.”

Now it’s a nationwide operation with 100,000 users so far, in partnership with police and local authorities.

Their busiest areas are London, Norfolk and Suffolk, in partnership with Archant local newspaper group, and now expanding into Essex and Surrey.

The service is free to households, local groups, charities and local authorities. It gets revenue from businesses who want to plug in to people talking to each other.

“We’re putting neighbours in touch in their postcodes,” Nina added. “It’s where they recommend local plumbers or want to borrow a lawn mower or ladder, perhaps offer to do gardening or discuss objections to local planning applications, campaign for a pedestrian crossing or prevent the local post office, library or pub closing down.”

People join online at with their post code and email—500 have already done so in Tower Hamlets alone.

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