Police Departments Fight Crime Using Social Media

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Several police departments in our area are logging online and posting information about some open cases, hoping the public can help.

In Barboursville, police said the public's tips have helped substantially.

"We'd like to have 10,000 likes, 10,000 people following us," said Barboursville Police Detective Greg Lucas.

The Barboursville Police Department is one of many harnessing the power of social media.

"I think it's the new way of community policing," Lucas said.

He said posts on sites like Facebook help them identify and track suspects.

"If we can get a picture of someone or a video of someone committing a crime and we can put that out to that database, somebody shares it, and they have 200 friends, and one of them shares it, and so on and so on and so on," he said.

The videos and pictures show up in your news feed, showing people shoplifting, stealing and more.

Lucas said roughly 12 cases have been solved in four months because of social media.

Susan Fraser works in Barboursville at a hair salon. She said it's smart for police to keep sharing.

"Here is the Barboursville Police Department showing the crooks in action," Fraser said.

"I've gotten some posts shared to me, I try to share them also just to spread the word and I think social media definitely is making a big difference," she said.

That's what investigators are betting on.

Police said they're selective about which cases will hit your feed, but they like what they're seeing so far.

"This gives us such a broad database, we can literally reach millions of people," Lucas said. "Twenty years ago, law enforcement officers had a phonebook and a car."

On top of just getting community tips, Lucas said many criminals leave online fingerprints, they may not know about.

Police said in one of their latest posts about a shoplifter, they had nearly 10,000 views.

They said their most popular post was a few weeks ago for a missing person case. That post reached 20,000 people.

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