Redbridge police are urging residents who witness crimes to call them rather than posting on social media.
The council’s new cabinet member for crime, Cllr Khayer Chowdhury (Lab, Valentines), said some residents had even failed to report attempted burglaries or car thefts.
He was inspired to speak up on January 14 after photos that seemed to show a group breaking lockdown rules were posted in a Facebook group.
In a public Facebook post, he said he reported it to police but officers arrived to find them gone, arguing they may have been caught if the resident had called police directly.
Cllr Chowdhury said: “Many residents approach me every week about issues in their neighbourhoods. When I ask them if they have reported these issues to the police, they say no.
“I have even spoken to residents who have witnessed attempted burglaries or car thefts and did not call the police because they were concerned they would not be taken seriously. This is not the case.
“Even if officers cannot attend the scene immediately, their report will be added as intelligence so when officers do attend, they know where to patrol and who to look out for.”
He explained that COVID breaches are being taken seriously by the council and police and that Redbridge has issued more fines over COVID than anywhere else in London.
Inspector Carroll Weeden said that while more Facebook groups were now asking if police had been called, she hoped to see “more admins push and encourage their members to report online”.
She said reports are “immediately reviewed” by a centralised London team, a COVID unit in Lambeth where relevant and by the local duty officer, adding: “No call will not get looked at.”
She said: “I suspect, when people are out about, they are fearful of reporting in case they get people calling them a grass and that and that.
“It’s not about us trying to penalise or isolate anyone, it’s about making our community safe. Sometimes even just a conversation with someone can go a long way.
“The difficulty that we have got (with social media) is it can amplify things that might not actually be true. It may not always be as it first seems.”
She recalled an incident reported on a Hornchurch Facebook group, alleging a young woman was verbally abused and followed, which some later suspected “could have been a hoax”.