As part of a new strategy, "Operation Access," Strathclyde police are using social networking sites such as Facebook to uncover violent criminal activity by identifying weapon carriers.
Police officers search through Facebook to find users who have posted photographs of themselves posing with weapons.
If these pictures are taken in public places then they have committed a criminal offence and can be arrested – though it is not illegal to pose with weapons in private. Nevertheless, officers in the area have been visiting the relations of those in question.
Superintendent Bob Hamilton, in charge of the operation, said: “We show the parents their pictures, recover the weapons and make sure they know that behavior is unacceptable.
“We have large kitchen knives, axes, samurai swords, baseball bats, a huge number and different type of weapons – in simple terms, weapons that can kill.”
Mr Hamilton added: “We've questioned more than 400 people, most of them teenagers, as part of it. It's worked so well it will carry on indefinitely.”
200 weapons have destroyed in the past six months and one nineteen year old in Ayreshire was recently fined £200 for posing with a sword in public.
Critics of the scheme are concerned about privacy issues. Mr Hamilton, however, stated that there is no difference in recovering pictures on the internet than the police making use of CCTV footage to gather intelligence to inform police operations.
Social networking sites, Facebook and Bebo have said that they are committed to helping reduce crime rates and improving the safety of their members. These sites have previously been criticised for failing to implement appropriate safeguards to prevent criminal activity.
Police have previously reported that social networking sites are an important method of communication and recruitment for gang members.
Facebook was criticised last year for fuelling knife crime with the "stabbing game" application, which has since been removed.