NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – When you get on Facebook, it’s likely to show off photos, interact with friends, or maybe read the news.
But for local police departments, it has a much more important role.
From Niles to Salem to Braceville Township, social media has played a big role in fighting crime this week.
“It’s always been a collaboration between the public and law enforcement,” Niles Police Captain Ken Criswell said.
But these days, Niles Police Captain Ken Criswell says that collaboration is bigger– and faster– than ever before.
“It’s a great tool. It’s almost real time for us. We post things. We have 7k friends. I hope most of them are friends. Probably a few bad guys out there,” Criswell said.
With a few more than 30 officers on the force, crime fighting ability can be a little limited. But when you expand those eyes on the street to seven thousand, it makes a big difference.
Sunday, a suspect in several robberies in Niles was identified in record time. Twenty minutes after posting security pictures to Facebook, investigators had a name.
In Leavittsburg this week, Braceville Township Police were able to share home security footage with the public to identify the man they say stole a Christmas present right off one family’s porch.
“We’ve shared information and a lot of people have shared information with us on there,” Braceville Police Chief William Garro said. “And for a small department, we get fifty thousand hits a week.”
Criswell says it not only helps catch and deter criminals, it also builds an important rapport with the public.
“It’s great because it’s interactive. You know, we post something and get replies,” Garro said. “And often it’s Captain Holland who manages the Facebook page. And there will be a back and forth communication sometimes.”
And that communication is only growing more important.
“I think it’ll be a great tool in the future as important as your gun, your badge and whatever else out there,” Garro said.