Jun 25, 2015 10:25 PM

NH police departments increasingly relying on Facebook to catch criminals


PORTSMOUTH - Police departments across the nation have started to increase use of Facebook to catch criminals.

The results have been incredible here in NH as well - as authorities say they are now able to spread information on wanted suspects faster than ever before.

"Every time we use it, it seems to happen faster – more effectively," said Portsmouth Police Capt. Mike Schwartz.

Schwartz said his department started using the social media site shortly after its debut in 2004.

More than a dozen officers have access to post to the page to quickly push out information at any time.

The page was once again put to the test last week when the department asked for help in finding Amanda Burgess, a suspected heroin dealer.

"Commenters" and shares overwhelmed the post – and within hours, police had received solid leads on Facebook to locate Burgess.

“Within a day or two, she was located way up in Washington county, Maine," Schwartz said. “There she was.”

The post on Burgess was shared so many times and an overwhelming amount of tips continued to pour in, it had to be deleted.

On the NH1 News Facebook page, a post about Burgess was shared more than 800 times.

Portsmouth also had luck catching a crook about a month ago when they posted surveillance video of a teenager appearing to steal a purse from an elderly woman in a Wal Mart parking lot.

That video was shared more than 1,200 times – and the young suspect was caught within hours.

Some organizations - like Seacoast Crime Stoppers - have started to offer links on their pages that allow users to send in tips.

“If you’re dumb enough to put something on there that may incriminate you, then I have no problem with it being used," said a man who identified himself as Joe.

Many others who spoke to NH1 News about the subject were surprised to hear that there is a large amount of NH police departments that still don’t have Facebook pages.

“I thought everyone had Facebook and just did things on Facebook," said Maggie St. Louis, an active Facebook user. "It’s surprising to me.”

Still, others were quick to point out that not every element of police business should be posted to Facebook - and that despite big social media efforts, they don't always work.

“A good example is these two prisoners from Dannemora," said J.B. Whitehead. "They’ve been out and gone almost two weeks now.”

Many police departments would likely agree - suggesting that social media is a great resource that can allow detectives to gather information - but very often those tips can be inaccurate.


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