UK police force publishes all incidents to Twitter

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LONDON (AP) - From stolen cars to suspicious smells, one of Britain’s biggest police forces is tweeting every incident it deals with over a 24 hour-period to prove a point.

The online Twitter campaign aims to show the pressures that police are under as British officials prepare for deep budget cuts.

“The reality of police work is that although crime is a big part of what we do, we do much else besides,” Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Manchester said in a message posted to YouTube. “We’re very much the agency of last resort, and a big part of our workload is related to wider social problems of alcohol, drugs, mental health and people having problems with their relationships.”

The project, which began at 5:00 a.m. Thursday, has already racked up more than 1,300 different incidents. Among the first tweets: An alert about a stolen vehicle thought to be headed for Manchester, the arrest of an aggressive shoplifter, and a report that “a man appears asleep at bus stop.”

Greater Manchester Police is one of the country’s largest police forces, responsible for a 500-square-mile (1,300-square-kilometer) area centered on Manchester, which competes with Birmingham for the title of England’s second city.

Although Manchester has seen some high-profile crimes _ including international terrorism cases _ most of Thursday’s calls spoke of the daily grind of police work.

Many tweets covered domestic incidents, traffic accidents, stolen cars and missing people. There were calls about animals, complaints about a man urinating against a school wall, and a report of someone smoking on an incoming flight to Manchester Airport.

There were also dozens of false alarms.

In one incident, officers were sent to a bridge where a man was reportedly seen dangling a baby over the edge. In fact, he’d been carrying his dog in his arms because the animal was afraid of bridges.

The Twitter feed was choked with reports of children who had dialed police while playing with their parents’ cell phones, as well as a host of nuisance calls.

“Confused man reporting his TV not working,” one incident report stated. “Man calls to say locked out of house. Wants police to break in for him,” another said. One woman called police because a video of her had been posted to YouTube.

Manchester police said the tweets were being sent by a team of people from its corporate communications department, along with two force inspectors. Incidents would not be tweeted if their publication threatened anyone’s safety, a spokeswoman said.

For technical reasons, the police updates were being published across three different Twitter feeds. The project is to run until 5 a.m. Friday (0400 GMT, midnight Thursday EDT.)

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