Police bid to track down Twitter riot taunters

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Police in Middle Street, Portsmouth, over the weekend.

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Hampshire Police say they are hunting down thugs who are using internet sites to try and spark violence in Portsmouth.

Officers are knocking on doors of people - some as young as 16 - believed to be behind taunts attempting to incite violence in the city and other parts of Hampshire.

The force warned people they face jail if they incite violence linked to the third night of rioting in London and areas including Birmingham and Bristol last night.

Lucy Dibdin from Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘We are taking it seriously. We are already knocking on doors of people who are trying to generate violence and making it very clear that anybody who posts malicious rumours on Facebook, Twitter or Blackberry Messenger that there is going to be a footprint - and we will be able to track them down.

‘It is incitement of violence. It is a criminal offence. and they can be arrested for it.’

Police say there is currently no evidence to suggest trouble has flared in the Hampshire area last night - despite suggestions on the Twitter social networking site that sparks could fly in the Marmion Road area of Southsea and Southampton.

Police said that rumours on Twitter that the Cascades Shopping Centre and shops Commercial Road in Portsmouth were looted was attacked were false.

Hampshire Constabulary posted tweets in Twitter throughout the night in a bid to allay residents fears and reassure people that no trouble has flared.

Lucy Dibdin added: ‘Certainly we became aware yesterday afternoon that people were using social media - Blackberry Messenger, Twitter and Facebook - to try and generate disorder in this area.

‘We received specific intelligence about Southampton and they were trying to “show London who it should be done.”

‘Our first role is to monitor that and utilise that intelligence that comes in and provenance it to see what truth is behind it.

‘Sometimes it turned out to be 16-year-old school kids who were just causing trouble. There is nothing specific so far that’s caused us concern.’

Officers from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are expected to assist the Metropolitan Police in London for the rest of the week.