Police departments using social media to help catch wanted suspects

From apps that put you on alert, to websites that identify fugitives, police are using technology as a crime fighting tool.
Utica (WSYR-TV) -- From apps that put you on alert, to websites that identify fugitives, police are using technology as a crime fighting tool.

The DeWitt Police Department recently unveiled a new mobile website, an updated Twitter account and even a smartphone app to help round up criminals on the run.

And it’s helping. Just 90 minutes after posting a picture of a man caught on camera shoplifting, Utica Police had him in custody.

"Literally, I think four minutes after I posted it I started getting phone calls. And they just kept coming and coming. I probably got 30 phone calls just on that one case, in just a few hours,” explained Sergeant Steve Hauck with the Utica Police Department.
Sgt. Hauck says the very first time he posted a case through social media, a woman turned herself in just so he would take her picture off of Facebook. Utica Police credit social media with at least 60 arrests over the past two years and other agencies are following their lead.

This month, Dewitt Police Chief Eugene Conway launched five new tools online, including a mobile website that links to Twitter, a crime alert program and even a cell phone app where visitors can file complaints.

Soon, you'll see QR codes on police cruisers and buildings in the town of DeWitt, allowing you to instantly upload tips, alerts, and contact information for police.

"This is truly an example of the community wanting to help and this is an avenue for them to be able to,” said DeWitt Police Chief Eugene Conway.

Utica Police have more than 23-thousand Facebook followers and many of them link to the department's YouTube page to see suspects in bank robberies, fights, and car thefts. Animal abuse stories get the most hits.

"Guys are going from call to call to call. They don't have time to stop and chit chat and get to know people and vice versa,” Sgt. Hauck continued. "I actually see this as going back in time in policing....using that technology to kind of go back to that one-on-one communication with people via a computer?"

Interest is growing with each post. Chief Conway is eager to see the same results in Dewitt.

"It has solved so many investigations, that we only wish that we could have done it sooner,” Chief Conway said.

Chief Conway says he’ll still use the town letter and neighborhood meetings to alert people who don’t have computers. Those who do can find links to his new cyber tools at www.townofdewittpolice.com.

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