Police utilize 'Facebook detectives' to help solve crimes via social media

Police departments in Seguin and Boerne are utilizing the power of social media to catch criminals. And it's working.

Imagine detectives solving crimes without ever leaving the police station. Two local police departments are using the power of social media to catch the bad guys on a regular basis.

With the click of a button, thousands of "crime fighters" share pictures and videos of suspects, crowdsourcing to catch criminals.

We all use social media to know what's going on, but when anyone hears about crime happening in their community, it gets personal.

Having a social media footprint has become routine for police departments nationwide, but actually using social media as a daily crime-fighting tool remains rare.

KENS 5 is highlighting two local police departments that have been the most effective at leveraging Facebook to catch criminals.

"With all that help together, it makes everybody 'crime fighters,' so to speak," said Lieutenant Steve Perez with the Boerne Police Department.

Within seconds, the picture or video can be shared worldwide.

"So it's a multiplication network, a spider web of how fast social media can spread," said Officer Carlos Contreras with the Seguin Police Department.

When a crime happens, the Boerne Police Department posts any surveillance photos straight to Facebook.

"We have about four [people] that are assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division, so those four guys are running all the time," Lt. Perez said. "It helps out a lot when we can post a picture and say, 'Help us identify this person.'"

The department's 6,000 followers spring into action, sharing each of those posts hundreds of times.

Boerne police claim a high success rate when using Facebook to solve a crime. Lt. Perez says that it helps them catch almost every criminal, some identified within minutes.

The bad guys sometimes surrender voluntarily.

"We've even had some of the people we're looking for call and say, 'That's me. Please take my photo off Facebook!'" Lt. Perez noted.

Seguin has the same game plan, but with a dose of humor.

"It adds a little 'oomph' to it," Officer Contreras said.

Seguin Police give each suspect a nickname.

"Those nicknames stick," Officer Contreras explained. "So when they call in a tip or when they provide a tip, [they can say] 'Hey! I have a tip on Chicken Legs!' or 'I have a tip on Ms. No Shame!'"

Since last year, Seguin PD's followers, or "Facebook detectives," doubled from 6,000 to 12,000. It's an invisible army helping deter crime.

"It also gives an incentive to anyone in our community that, knowing that if you do commit a crime in the city of Seguin, you're gonna get called out on our Facebook page," Officer Contreras said.

Boerne Police have the largest Facebook following in town.

Seguin Police just got nominated for a social media award by the Texas Crime Prevention Association.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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