Kenya: Chief Tweets His Way to Reducing Crime

Digital Content

Using 140 characters or less, Chief Francis Kariuki in Kenya, has tweeted his way to reducing crime in his and surrounding villages.

"I have brought crime and illicit brewing under control in my location," Kariuki told IPS, "until May 2011, this place was very dangerous. Incidents of carjacking, mugging and burglaries occurred daily, but they are no more."

Kariuki, who is from Lanet Umoja Location, a semi-urban area in Nakuru County, Rift Valley Province, first began tweeting in May 2011 when local IT expert, Njoha Gathua, created a Twitter account for him. It was an innovative idea because to date, Lanet Umoja is the only semi-urban area in this East African country that uses this social media site to fight crime.

Gathua told IPS that he wanted to help the community reduce crime, so he gave the chief and his assistants training on how to use the free instant messaging tool that limits users to post or tweet messages that are a maximum of 140 characters.

"Twitter is good to broadcast messages to the mass. It is good for the chief and his assistants to pass messages to their people," Gathua explains. But while worldwide people and companies mostly use it to keep in touch with friends, market products, and to broadcast breaking news, Kariuki uses it to alert his villagers to crimes.

Using the Twitter name "@chiefkariuki", Kariuki sends messages to over 15,000 of the 28,000 people who live in Lanet Umoja. They include village elders, community and church leaders, the police, youth and women's groups, and school principals.

When an incident occurs, the victims or eyewitnesses send text messages to the chief, describing the nature of the incident, the place and the nearest known landmark. The chief then broadcasts his instructions to the community through Twitter.

While not everyone has 3G-enabled cellphones here, many just subscribe to follow Kariuki's account through their local service providers and receive his tweets by text message.