Valley authorities are fighting crime with social media

March 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many police departments are embracing what's known as virtual community policing. That's where agencies use sites like Facebook and Twitter to interact with the community.

Policing agencies are not just on the streets fighting crime, they're going online, using social media sites.

Janet Stoll-Lee with the Clovis Police Department said, "You're getting a lot more eyes on potential criminals in cases that we could be solving."

Last April, the Clovis Police Department launched a Facebook and Twitter page to post the latest crime updates, including pictures of suspects who have been nabbed, and those still at large.

"Based upon tips we received back from people, we were able to solve approximately 10 crimes, both felonies, mostly misdemeanors," said Janet Stoll-Lee. "But we actually put closer on cases that otherwise we probably would not have been able to solve."

One of the latest posts is surveillance video of an armed robbery at the Shop-N-Go mini mart on Fowler and Nees. More than 26-thousand people saw the video within 24 hours of it being posted.

In another case, police were able to track down three people accused in a recent iPad theft. Police say the suspects took pictures of themselves with the stolen iPad. Those pictures were uploaded to the victim's iCloud. When the suspects saw themselves all over the internet, they turned themselves in.

Janet Stoll-Lee added, "When you have the video and can put that out and potentially there are other people that might know that person and are willing to give us a call."

Other agencies in the Valley have been on the social media bandwagon.

Lt. Don Gross with the Fresno Police Department said, "Here we have the ability to post that so folks can have their photo, they know who these people are, and if they're in their community committing crime, they should know who that individual is."

The Fresno Police Department has more than 11,000 followers on its Facebook page. Officials say the site has made it easier for criminals to turn themselves in.

The Fresno Police Department is thinking of launching a Twitter page to reach out to more people. The problem they say is these sites require personnel to manage it, a difficult thing to do during a time of budget cuts.


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