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article imagePolice Chief links vandalism decline to rise in Internet trolling

By Robert Myles     Aug 28, 2014 in Crime
Glasgow - Scotland’s top police officer, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, has compared the modern-day rise of Internet trolls posting abusive messages online with graffiti artists of old, daubing their messages on city buildings or any other convenient "media."
Sir Stephen House heads up Scotland’s national police force, Police Scotland yesterday spoke to the Scottish Police Authority, the police force’s supervisory body. Scotland’s top cop singled out Twitter for particular attention drawing a link between the a decline in vandalism and other anti-social behaviour in Scottish communities with the increased frequency of perpetrators of online abuse — trolls as they are often called — electing to post abusive messages in cyberspace on social media sites like Twitter rather than daubing paint outside on Scotland’s streets.
“Social media in some instances has replaced graffiti as a way of making your views heard. We have had to deal with offensive comments made on Twitter. My view is that 10 to 15 years ago, that would have been sprayed on the side of a building,” said House.
Crimes against property in Scotland have sharply declined in recent years. The number of recorded offences for the likes of vandalism, fire-raising and malicious damage stood at 13,453 recorded offences over the quarter April-June 2014. For h comparable period in 2009-10 the figure was more than double the most recent statistic at 28,146.
House conceded social media alone couldn’t account for such a sharp decline. He argued that more visible police patrols and the introduction of vandal-proof bus shelters had also contributed to the decline.
Scotland’s Chief Constable also considered a more sedentary lifestyle, the Xbox generation, among Scotland’s youth might also have something to do with the fall in anti-social crimes, reports The Herald:
"We have a lot of success against gangs. Some of it has been that the Xbox and PlayStation generation is less of a gang generation. They are not out in the street so much. You can correlate that with things like the general view that youth fitness is not where it was. Why? Because they are not out ¬playing football to all hours of the day and night. They are inside on the Xbox. But if they are not outside, they are not doing the damage. But that takes us back to social media, people staying indoors may be committing some sorts of crimes like cyber-vandalism, but it is not visible to the rest of the community."
Twitter had an estimated 15 million users in the UK as at September 2013. That figure is likely to have since increased as use of Smartphones becomes the preferred means of accessing social media. Social media management group Rose McGrory reported earlier this year that Facebook use in the UK appeared to have plateaued at just over 31 million users. Even so, that still represents remarkable market penetration given that the total population of the UK is just over 63 million.
Police Scotland, in common with police forces elsewhere, can and do investigate online abuse, drawing no distinction whether the abuse occurs online, in the street, or elsewhere. As Sir Stephen House put it:
“When challenged, some people say 'I didn't say that, I put it on Twitter'. Well, it is the same as saying it."
The types of abuse Police Scotland are called upon to investigate are wide and varied. Just yesterday, coinciding with Chief Constable House’s comments, Stewart McInroy received a 10-month sentence for using Facebook to send a message to the father of a missing man claiming he’d "brutally tortured and murdered" his son.
But there was uproar when learnt McInroy would be released from prison in a matter of weeks as a result of his sentence being backdated to when he was first remanded in custody last April and with McInroy being due for automatic early release.
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