Tweets on the beat for the Twitter police force

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Police officers in Britain are turning to microblogging site Twitter in the fight against crime.

Neighbourhood bobbies are using smartphones to provide information about arrests, operations and daily patrols via Tweets.

They also post pictures and CCTV images as well as appeals about crime.

An initiative has been run by Hertfordshire Constabulary since March but Greater Manchester Police - a far larger force - has announced it too will use Twitter in a move that looks set to be replicated across the country.

There is criticism that the idea will prove distracting to police and some officers are worried that people will see them using their phones and think they are sending frivolous texts.

"This will make us look unprofessional and it sends out the wrong message," one officer in Greater Manchester said.

Officers working within the Herfordshire Constabulary Safer Neighbourhood team in Broxbourne post Tweets under the name KiloZeroPolice.

So far messages range from the mildly interesting, "What a shift yesterday! I went to a report of shiplifting.. on attending the incident I was assaulted by one of the suspects", to the banal, "On a training course for the next few days up in Stevenage."

Kevin Hoy, Greater Manchester Police's web manager believes the idea will be a winner, however.

He said the force was looking to encourage greater interactivity between the police and residents.

“Twitter will become the main network for the force, and new local Twitter channels will be set up in the neighbourhoods throughout the autumn," he said.

Officers in Greater Manchester use Blackberry mobile phones and the force also sends email updates to people living in some of the area's communities as part of an awareness drive.