Police departments using Twitter search

4 Twitter Search Operators Police Departments Need to Know About

Police departments and law enforcement officers have long been seeking the best ways to use social media in order to fight crime and stay abreast of what’s going on in their area. According to a 2013 social media survey, the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 96% of police departments are now using social media, with 80% claiming to have used it to help solve crime.

At Twilert, we work with many law enforcement agencies and police departments, both in the UK and across the world. As well as using Twitter as a powerful social listening means, we also find that there is one unknown area which can help make Twitter even more useful.

The answer? Advanced Twitter Search.

Twitter Search operators are an essential aid to cutting down the results more quickly. In a critical situation, events evolve minute-by-minute. Twitter search helps refine the sheer amount of information to sift through, saving only that which is important and needs to be reviewed in an instant.

In this guide, we’ll walk through four advanced means of Twitter search that police departments and crime fighters can use within Twilert in order to track specific keywords, areas, users and only see the tweets that matter.


1. Search for one keyword or another

Specific keywords are often the gate to the tweets that are most relevant to a police department. For example, keywords such as ‘crime’, ‘help’, ‘shock’ and even multi-word phrases such as ‘just seen’ could help police officers to track down tweets that report crime or assist with a situation that’s already being monitored.

To avoid setting up hundreds of different alerts, or having to check Twitter notifications every five minutes, you can use Twilert in order to combine all of the important keywords into one email alert.

For example, combining the to:user operator (e.g. to:metpoliceuk) along with the ‘OR’ filter, you can track tweets sent to the user @metpoliceuk that contain keywords such as ‘crime’, ‘just happened’, ‘just seen’, ‘dangerous’, ‘help needed’… or any others that may need urgent attention.

Search query: to:metpoliceuk + ‘crime’ OR ‘just happened’ OR ‘just seen’ OR ‘dangerous’ OR ‘help needed’

Twitter OR search for police departments

By using the ‘OR’ operator in between each search term or phrase, you create one search (and email alert with Twilert) to monitor every high-level keyword that indicates when attention is needed – fast.


2. To, from and excluding specific users

To get to the tweets that matter, it is often a case of excluding or monitoring specific user handles. For example, if you’re monitoring the keywords ‘crime’ + Norwich’ you are likely to find results from other local bodies or media sites that aren’t relevant, or coming from the users you need.

searching for crime using Twitter search

To exclude tweets sent from user such as ‘@DailyNORFOLK’ you can simply add -dailynorfolk to your search query.

This simple tool can be used to exclude spam results, abuse and duplicates from specific users.

But what about if you want to see tweets only from a specific user? Monitoring a user (or a series of users) in one Twitter email alert can help law enforcement agents to track crime and patterns, as well as to see how crime develops, in real time as it happens.

To monitor specific tweets sent from a user you can use the from:user operator.

For example from:jamessmith101 will show a stream of tweets sent from the user @jamessmith101. You can also go one step further to pair this with a specific hashtag or keyword, for example from:jamessmith101 ‘meet me at’ would show you all tweets from that user that contain the phrase ‘meet me at’ – potentially helping to track specific meet points or areas that could lead to the prevention or monitoring of crime.

Search query: from:jamessmith101 OR from:danielbear OR from:jessieclark OR from:bluey333

The OR search operator, combined with from:user could help to streamline crimes that are being tracked – without having to manually search or keep up with updates. Saving time and helping police departments to track every tweet that matters.


3. Excluding specific keywords, hashtags and results

Similarly to how we just learned how to exclude a specific user from the results, it’s also possible to exclude anything from a hashtag to a keyword.

To do this, police departments and monitoring agencies can use the exclusion search operator, also known as the minus sign ‘-’.

For example -via would exclude any tweets containing the keyword ‘via’. Adding -RT will exclude all retweets from your search results, helping you to view only the original tweets. This can also be used with hashtags: -#archive will remove any tweets from your results that contain the hashtag ‘#archive’.

Lastly, a search operator that many aren’t aware of is -filter:links. This useful search allows you to exclude any tweets that contain links in them. Which is often of benefit when you are looking to exclude tweets from the media or other organisations.


4. Track high-profile tweets

The verified sign on Twitter (the little blue tick that shows next to a verified user’s account) allows you to view who has been approved by Twitter as being a “an authentic account of public interest”. According to Twitter:

“An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”

Since a recent update, Twitter has opened the application process so that anyone can apply to become a verified account. However, verified accounts do still give police departments some idea of the tweets that are coming from accounts of public interest.

To search for tweets that are sent from verified users only, users can include the filter:verified search operator.

For example, the search query ‘london’ ‘news’ filter:verified will only show tweets that have been sent containing the keyword ‘london’ and ‘news’ from verified accounts.


In conclusion

Using Twitter search operators could save hours of monitoring time, by cutting through to just the tweets that matter. Try out some of the search operators above and let us know how you get on! We’re on Twitter @twilert and can’t wait to see your tweet in our latest email alert!


Receive email alerts

Did you know that with Twilert you can receive all of your Twitter search results via email? This makes it easier to stay on top of the tweets that matter, either in realtime or through hourly, daily or weekly digests.

To start your free trial head to https://www.twilert.com.

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