Last night while the country seemingly went insane with looting and rioting in London, Nottingham, Liverpool, further afield and closer to home in Birmingham, the WV11Â Facebook page andÂ Twitter feed came alive with rumours that there was rioting and looting at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield and further afield in Wolverhampton.
We were very pleased to report this was NOT true.
There was no trouble at Bentley Bridge and while there have been some reports of “minor damage” in the city centre this morning â€“ there is nothing obviousÂ that IÂ couldÂ see on my way to work. I am shattered we spent a large part of last night relaying police updates to our Facebook and Twitter followers Â and talking online toÂ WednesfieldÂ residents who could see that there was no trouble going on on their doorsteps.
At times it seemed like an uphill battle when twitter searches determined there were so many people convinced the main retail park in our area was burning to the ground – even though if they’d looked out of their windows a distinct lack of smoke in the sky could have waylaid that particular rumour, but we stuck at it and eventually we stemmed the tide and finally after much effort we got the point across. The people spreading misinformation started repeating our message that there was nothing going on, directing people to the official police streams – and in some cases saying they “Feel awful and a right scare monger” when they realised they were wrong. Some residents were also going out to prove all was well and posting photos to our wall.
So imagine my utter frustration when the “main stream media” of our area The Wolf radio station, who were distinctly absent last night when we trying to allay peoples fears, posted this on there facebook page this morning trying to make something out of nothing:
James and I tried our best to stem this too and then followed it up with this news piece – and it prompted Â the subsequent response on facebook:
I feel they didn’t quite go as far as lying but mostÂ definitelyÂ reported in such a way that anyone who wasn’t aware of the truth of the situation would have probably questioned what was going on and then they chose to ignore our calls for openess and tried and get a resident to talk to them on the phone because they said they were scared!
Personally I think it wasÂ incrediblyÂ irresponsible of their radio station to report in this way.There were no problems of note in Wolverhampton last night andÂ definitelyÂ NONE at Bentley, and I can testify to this having passed by the retail park and walked through the city this morning. Keeping people afraid and giving them a platform, inviting them to fuel the rumour mill will Â create an atmosphere of fear that could become a breeding ground for a situation to arise Â similar to those we saw in Birmingham last night – Â The media should have aÂ responsibilityÂ to report facts not conjecture and local media more so as they are much more accessible to the local people than the national news outlets .
Yes there were reports of looting and rioting in Wednesfield,Â particularlyÂ on Bentley Bridge last night BUT they were false and The Wolf should have takenÂ responsibilityÂ in this instance and reported as such!
What is community engagement?
For me it’s about communication withÂ the people whoÂ bothÂ live and work where I live. Itâ€™s about conversation, Saying hello asking questions and listening – and that comes from the community and any partners working in the community, local government, police,Â LNP’sÂ etc. Â But, how do you encourage engagement? The people that want to will find ways to become part of what isÂ happeningÂ locally, they will attend the PACT (Police and Community Together) meetings, they will become members of the residents association – they will give themselves a voice. But what about the people who live in the community but quite often don’t have the confidence to communicate withÂ each other – let alone people in so called positions of authority – How do you encourage them to engage?
You encourage them to talk to each other – that’s how!
We set up the WV11 website 2 years ago this week and we’ve watched it grow from a site that we stuck articles on in hope someone would read, to a community who actively seek information from each other. Â If the lights go out in our area within a short while weÂ receiveÂ a post on ourÂ facebookÂ wall “Is anyoneÂ else’sÂ power out?” – When one of the water mains burst it was quickly established through conversation how far spread the outage was and how long it was likely to last as individuals shared information withÂ each other, no longer just looking to us for the answers.
But how do you move that conversation away from talking to each other – to talking to the partners that can make a difference in their area?
Recently there has been a spate of anti socialÂ activities taking place in the local park – fromÂ graffitiÂ and vandalism to bullying and loutishÂ behaviour. Â One of the targets for the localÂ vandalsÂ are a set of newly installedÂ exerciseÂ equipment which had been there barely aÂ monthÂ before it had been set on fire and destroyed and the locals are getting fed up! They came onto ourÂ facebookÂ page to express their displeasure at the situation so we asked them straight out – Do you think patrols of the park to combat anti social behaviour should be made a PACT priority at the next meeting? – They answered a resounding YES!Â As Â a result of us asking thisÂ simpleÂ question which basicallyÂ amountedÂ to “What do you want to happen in your area?” that is asked all the time by various bodies, but in a much moreÂ focussedÂ way, many residents who have never before attended a PACT meeting have expressed an interest in attending the next scheduled meeting on 16thÂ August to set this inÂ motion, and one resident who is unable to attend herself has found her voice and penned a letter she forwarded to us at Wv11 to pass over on her behalf.
Some of these people are the same ones who 18 months ago when we first started listing the PACT meetings on our website were telling us “there is no point going as we never get listened to anyway” – maybe it’s because finally they’ve found a cause which they really want to see a fix for that has made them engage – maybe it’s after 24 months of Â listening to each other online that they feel empowered to take action, or maybe it’s just because we asked a direct question and with over 60 responses they feel they have a united voice to get something done – who knows – all I know is I’m looking forward to the next PACT meeting and seeing what it brings.
Hopefully we can get the patrols a priority and prove that an engaged community does have a voice and that they can make things happen!