Ohio police successfully use Facebook as tool to identify, arrest suspects
Police chiefs say 'arming citizens with information' is a great asset, leads to suspect arrests or contact
BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — Thanks to the reach of social media, it’s getting more difficult to get away with criminal activity, according to Butler County law enforcement agencies.
Recently, a Hamilton man pleaded guilty to three counts of bank robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison after surveillance cameras captured him robbing three Warren County banks. Security at an Indiana casino recognized the suspect hen seeing a post on Facebook and notified police.
A Hamilton man was arrested and charged with sexual imposition after he allegedly groped a woman at a Speedway gas station in West Chester Twp., part of which was captured on surveillance video.
Fairfield police recently released photos of a man and woman in hopes of identifying them since they’re suspected of using a stolen debit card at a Pleasant Avenue gas station. And Fairfield police are also looking for help identifying two people who found a wallet at White Castle by posting their photos on local media outlets.
Middletown Police Chief David Birk called the use of social media “a great tool” because it allows police the opportunity to quickly reach a wider audience.
“It’s a way to get information out there so it becomes a joint police effort between us and the community,” Birk said.
When the department is contacted through its Facebook page about someone possibly identifying a criminal, Birk said police follow up every lead to determine whether it’s a reliable tip.
“We exhaust every possibility,” Birk said.
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones said “arming citizens with information” is a great asset to those in law enforcement.
“They get on the internet and they know the person, and they say, ‘Oh, that’s so and so,’ and they call us,” he said. “They don’t want that person on the streets.”
The Oxford Police Department has made a “concerted effort” to use social media as a way to solve crimes, said Chief John Jones. Posting photos and videos of criminals on the Internet creates “a force multiplier” and the public becomes the “eyes and ears” of the department, Jones said.
“There are more of them than us,” he said.
When someone on Facebook recognizes the person for whom police are searching, the department typically is contacted through a private message because that makes the informant “most comfortable,” Jones said.
Sometimes dispatchers contact the person to see if police can call them. Jones said a two-way conversation is the best way to communicate.
Hamilton police Sgt. Rich Burkhardt said the department rarely uses social media because most of the times the detectives know the suspects.
“It’s the same people over and over,” he said.
But if the suspect is a first-time offender or someone from out of town, Burkhardt said their picture or video will be posted on social media. He said those posts typically generate about 20 calls from residents.
Suspects will also sometimes contact police directly one they see their photos on Facebook and want to tell their side of the story.
“It’s effective,” he said.