News Column

Police Tapping into a Free Online Social Media Tool to Nab Crooks

February 12, 2013

Michael Hall

When Glynn County police Capt. Marissa Tindale started her career in law enforcement nearly three decades ago, she could never have imagined she would be able to catch criminals by tapping into a free online social media tool.

But scrolling through the police department's Facebook page shows why officers favor the site that is more widely used by friends telling online friends about birthday parties or fabulous vacations.

When trying to catch criminals, police want to utilize every medium and information outlet at their disposal. That includes Facebook.

On Facebook, one posting after another asks for information about specific crimes or shows screen stills from surveillance cameras featuring the faces of suspects alleged to have robbed convenience stores, passed counterfeit money or been involved in other crimes.

As head of the criminal investigations division, Tindale says the Glynn County Police Facebook page, which has more than 3,000 online followers, has become a powerful source of information for police.

"It is an easy way to get information or a question out to a lot of people very quickly," Tindale said.

The site has paid off on numerous occasions, she said.

In August, police were able to identify and arrest Frank Tacchio for allegedly making a purchase with counterfeit money at a Friendly Express store in Brunswick with information provided by Facebook users.

There are other police uses of Facebook. Investigators such as Glynn County Sgt. Ricky Evans comb its pages for helpful information about suspects.

"Even criminals have Facebook pages," Evans said. "It's been very beneficial several times."

Although Facebook information is not always credible, Evans says the job of a detective is to pursue every lead possible. "You don't want to leave any stone unturned," he said.

Sometimes what starts as an investigation into a rumor can lead to new information that takes investigators one step closer to a suspect.

The Brunswick Police Department is taking advantage of Facebook, as well.

Lt. Todd Rhodes, public information officer for the department, says the department is new to utilizing Facebook, but is finding it beneficial.

"It is another means to get information out to the public," Rhodes said. "We want to use any means of communication we can to deal with the public."

Source: (c) 2013 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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