By Erin McKeon firstname.lastname@example.org
It took a matter of a few hours for Nacogdoches Crime Stoppers to receive a tip, investigate and help solve a crime. And it was all started through a Facebook post.
Social networking is becoming increasingly popular in Nacogdoches County to let residents know about crime trends, wanted suspects, share crime reports and just interact with the public in a different way.
"We solved a crime a couple of weeks ago where we had posted it on our Facebook page and the person gave us a tip, said they saw it on our Facebook page and it was solved within a few hours," Nacogdoches County Crime Stoppers Chairman Jason Reina said. "It`s the latest way to get information out to the public and to a new demographic."
The organization began using social networking almost two months ago, and Reina is seeing endless possibilities for how it can be used to inform the public and catch criminals.
"It is important to note that we do not take tips on the Facebook page," he said. "When we do something like the Crime of the Week, we have a link on there where people can go directly to our website and leave a tip anonymously. Facebook is not at all anonymous."
In fact, if someone does leave a tip on the organization`s Facebook page, that person is no longer eligible for an award from Crime Stoppers, if the tip leads to the apprehension of the suspect, he said.
To leave a tip for Crime Stoppers, visit ncstips.com or call 936-560-4636.
By posting information about crimes that have happened or people the departments are looking for, law enforcement in Nacogdoches County have gotten several tips on people`s identities or whereabouts.
"We`re looking for a wanted person right now, and people are shooting me messages about what that person is doing and where that person might be," Nacogdoches County Pct. 4 Constable Jason Bridges said.
The best way to communicate about specific people or crimes with any law enforcement is to send them a private message on the networking site or give them a call, he said.
Nacogdoches Police Department Sgt. Greg Sowell said the department`s presence on Facebook is evolving all the time.
"This is something we`re using as a tool that I think we have not yet seen the potential of," he said. "We post a lot of photographs, things that are going on within the department and crime prevention tips.
"We`re able to answer people`s questions back and forth, and we`re posting ‘Help us Identify,` that if we have video surveillance of people we`re trying to identify, we`re telling people they can reply to us with any information they have," Sowell said.
The goal, Sowell said, is to have people become more involved in the department`s inner workings.
Informing people about what is going on in their communities is the main reason Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss uses social networking, including Facebook and Twitter, he said.
"First and foremost, I believe the better informed our citizens are and the more aware they are of some of the issues in their community, the better they can assist us," Kerss said. "We can`t do everything that needs to be done without the assistance of our citizens."
Because it`s fast and allows residents to ask questions, make comments or at least be aware of the situations, Kerss said social networking is a tool he`ll be using more frequently from now on.
Bridges said social networking is a powerful tool to get information out to a large number of people at the same time.
"I have a Facebook account and keep peopled updated on what we`re doing in our precinct through there," he said. "The paper and news station reach a lot of people, but with everybody in the technology world we`re in nowadays, there`s room to reach more.
"Bridges said he has more than 1,500 friends on his Facebook page and if many of those send word to their friends about cases or incidents, then more than 2,000 people can be reached in a matter of minutes.
"As valuable a tool as this is, one of the challenges is the time to monitor and to keep the information fresh on those sites," Kerss said. "We don`t have paid staff to work around the clock monitoring Facebook or twitter accounts, but it still has been a very valuable resource."
To "like" any of the department`s Facebook pages, search Nacogdoches Crime Stoppers, Nacogdoches Police Department, Nacogdoches Sheriff or "friend" Jason Bridges on Facebook.
© 2012 The Daily Sentinel. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission.