Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I'll be honest. Most of our Facebook posts are about positive incidents and officer interactions and not a lot about wanted suspects or surveillance images. The reason behind this is because such posts are not very interesting or “popular” to our Facebook fans, according to our analytics.
However, we had a recent incident that we knew would be different and it has really reminded us of the importance of using social media when it comes to the basics of what we do – identifying and finding criminals.
The incident began as a traffic stop that turned into a brief pursuit and then a confrontation between our officers and suspects. As our officers approached the suspects’ vehicle, the driver suddenly reversed course and struck two of our officers with his vehicle before fleeing the scene.
Thankfully, our officers are OK, and we knew that our community would want to help in any way they could. We also knew that the media and the community would treat finding this suspect differently than other incidents because they had injured police officers.
People don't like people who hurt police. Once we identified the offender, we posted his photo on our Facebook page and specifically asked the public to share this information to help us find him, rather than just post it and say that we were looking for him.
The results were amazing, especially when it came to how quickly people responded.
Here are some of the numbers:
• In the first 22 minutes of posting the suspect’s photo, it generated 21 shares.
That’s nearly a share a minute!
• I checked the stats again after an hour and we had 60 shares. Again, that’s
basically a share a minute in the first hour!
• In the first 22 hours, the post generated 267 shares and reached 19,000 people.
• Within three days, the post had more than 350 shares and reached 23,784
people, according to Facebook’s analytics.
I truly believe the impetus for such attention and response is simply that we just ASKED our community for help. Rather than just post the information, we engaged our residents and asked them to get involved and help in one of the only ways they could – by sharing the information with all of their friends and family and beyond.
Though we don’t have any direct proof – yet – of the correlation between the Facebook post and the tip that led to the suspect’s arrest a few days later, I think it’s obvious that such information sharing works in terms of finding criminals as well as building community trust for a police department.
To that, we say thank you to our community for their help. And we have learned to use that specific language when seeking our community’s help when it comes to their role in our crime-fighting efforts.