Facebook and You – The New Crime-Fighters [AUDIO]
Social media sites, primarily Facebook, have become a new outlet for New Jersey police departments to share what they know about local crimes. With that information, site users have been able to help in providing tips and, essentially, solving local crimes.
Surveillance video of a shoplifter could be posted. Photographs of a suspect using stolen credit cards could be shared for thousands of people to see.
"It's really an untapped resource for law enforcement," said Lieutenant Sean Redmond with the Cherry Hill Police Department.
Redmond said Facebook has been highly successful in creating substantial leads and clearing cases.
He explained, "The information is almost instantaneous. As soon as you put it up there, our detectives are getting leads."
In Evesham Township, credit cards stolen during a rash of car burglaries were used at a local 7-11 convenience store. Pictures of the check-out counter were posted on Facebook, and within 12 hours, two suspects were positively identified.
Evesham Police Department's Sergeant Joseph Friel said when social media users help identify a suspect in a crime as simple as shoplifting, they could actually be preventing more trouble than they would think.
"The majority of shoplifters that we deal with are usually shoplifting to turn around and sell the merchandise for drugs," Friel said.
The social media approach by police departments has not only reached their immediate "followers" and "fans." Nearly 10,000 Facebook users have "liked" Evesham Township Police, and when those thousands of users share with their friends, the information/evidence has the potential to travel to hundreds of thousands of people.
Friel said once the fan base grows even larger, the page's wall can be used to share information such as gas line breaks and temporary road closures.
If you're interested in being a local crime-fighter, search for your police department on Facebook and elsewhere.
"It definitely helps having more eyes and ears out there to guide us and direct us in the proper direction on any investigation and/or anything that happens within a township," Redmond said.