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MIDDLE GEORGIA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Posting pictures, loading up on likes, and sharing those special moments, it seems like everyone is on social media for one reason on another including police.
“Social media is very quick. We are trying as law enforcement to catch up with it,” Warner Robins Interim Police Chief John Wagner said.
Chief Wagner is the face and fingers behind his department’s Facebook page.
“You can either embrace it, or you get left behind.”
While he does not spend the entire day scrolling through news feeds and scanning over profiles, he says staying social media is helping his department solve crimes.
Chief Wagner says “Whether we get a name or a location where this person may be at, it is certainly helpful for us to clear cases. Which is something we didn’t have 27 or 28 years ago when I started.”
And this department is clicking and clearing cases. Just this summer, Chief Wagner says a Facebook tip led his investigators to a drug bust at the Motel 6 on Watson Blvd.
And simply posting a photo of a suspected shoplifter, “Within 40 minutes I had a name. I had a location.”
But social media isn’t just solving crimes. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office says staying social is creating a better bond between deputies and the communities they serve.
“Who would have know about this if not for social media,” Lt. Sean Defoe said.
Lt. Defoe says the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office has an entire team behind its social media platforms. That team is responsible for promoting programs, events, and special moments that don’t always make the news. “We use social media as a way to communicate and connect with the community.”
But social media isn’t perfect. Both departments say it has its drawbacks.
“Sometimes it’s disheartening to see things. It saddens me to see we can live stream a shooting. I know that happened in Bibb county,” said Chief Wagner.
He’s talking about a few recent cases like the murder of 20-year-old Tynesha Hammonds, who was shot and killed during a Facebook live stream. And another where deputies collected multiple videos of a “Death Valley party” that ended with the shooting deaths of Deroderick Ridley and Gerald Pennyman Junior.
Chief Wagner says “And that part is sad. You have 20 people videotaping an event and not one person is stepping in and helping out.”
Law enforcement officials say they need you to be their eyes, ears, and cameras when reporting problems.
thanks to Facebook and followers, Chief Wagner says he’s getting tips and even video on speeders, shoplifters, and suspicious activity, and those tips really help agencies that have a lot of ground to cover like Macon Regional Crimestoppers.
Corporal Greg Thomas is the Executive Director of Crimestoppers for this region, and he’s responsible for catching criminals in eight Middle Georgia counties. He says he will use any platform if it means getting the bad guys behind bars.
“Waving, hardline, email, text, whatever. It’s just people willing to look after each other instead of me, me, me, go back to the basics,” Corporal Thomas said.
Chief Wagner says that’s all social media is doing. It’s basic communication helping his officers solve crimes, with a few added clicks.