Facebook helping Hillsborough police communicate with public, ID suspects

May. 02, 2013 @ 01:43 PM

Facebook is proving to be a useful tool for the Hillsborough Police Department in communicating with the public and identifying suspects.
The department now has more than 1,000 followers — a sixth of the town’s population — since adding the online social networking service to its toolkit in November 2011.
In March 2012, officers started using the Facebook page to post requests for information in identifying or locating suspects. Of the nearly 30 notices posted so far — mostly involving larcenies — 14 have resulted in identifications or arrests.
“We have had a lot of amusing comments about the quality of pictures we’ve been posting; they come from the stores and can be pretty rough sometimes,” Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton said. “But even with some relatively poor images, we are getting tips that lead to identifying suspects.”
Hillsborough Investigator Scott Bilsky initially suggested that the Police Department use Facebook as a way to distribute more information to the public.
During the first few months of use, the department mostly posted information about initiatives it was working on, enforcement actions, safety tips, employee recognition and community events.
“We started realizing the value in identifying people,” said Hampton, the police chief. “Now we want to keep it going because it’s a great tool — a community tool, law enforcement tool, crime prevention tool and catch-the-bad-guys tool.”
In addition to disseminating information to the public, Facebook also has given the department another way to interact with citizens. Using Facebook as an avenue, some citizens have sent the department private messages asking for crime information and advice, such as what to do about suspected drug use in a family and where to seek certain resources. Others have alerted police to community problems, such as places where they would like to see more traffic enforcement.
The Police Department plans to provide additional information on its Facebook page, including a weekly report of significant crimes and information on repeat offenders. Officers also see Facebook as a potential way to provide real-time information to the community.
“The biggest emphasis of the page is still sharing community events and information of how we’re interacting with the community,” Hampton said. “It’s helping build that sense of community in Hillsborough, to know what’s going on in Hillsborough in addition to law enforcement issues.”
The Police Department also uses Twitter, an online social networking and microblogging service linked to its Facebook page. Twitter generally is used by the department for quick posts, such as for road closures and traffic enforcement.

Find the Hillsborough Police Department on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HillsboroughPoliceDepartment or on Twitter @Hillsborough_PD.