Police use Facebook to find criminals

ELLSWORTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- Many of us use he social media site Facebook every day to catch up with friends and loved ones and to share what's going on in our lives. But its use has expanded over the years. For example, here at NEWS CENTER we use Facebook to help us stay on top of local news and events in the community. But for Police, it's proving to be a useful tool when it comes to cracking a case.

"It's the quickest way to to get any type of information

out there. Especially photographs if you're trying to identify somebody," said Lieutenant Harold Page of the Ellsworth Police Department.

The Ellsworth Police Department has all kinds of ways to catch a criminal, but one method has been growing more useful in the past four years- Facebook.

Once the department puts a picture on their Facebook page of a suspected criminal they are trying to identify, it doesn't take long to get a response.

"We've had shoplifting case where literally in less than a minute we've had somebody identify somebody for us," Page said.

"You know you post it out there and thousands of people can see it in just a matter of minutes," said Detective Dotty Small of the Ellsworth P.D.

On Monday March 31st, the Ellsworth Shaw's Osco Pharmacy was robbed. Police say the robber is 23-year-old Bruce Wilbur Junior. They say he demanded and took prescription drugs and then ran behind the building, through the woods, and into a waiting car. Police say that's behavior that showed he was familiar with the area.

Small said, "It lead us to believe that it was somebody that people may know out there and he did look familiar."

Police used still pictures taken from the store's security footage and uploaded them directly to Facebook. Almost right away investigators started getting feedback from members of the community.

"The picture that we put of him leaning on the counter had reached over thirty thousand people," said Small.

And Wilbur was getting attention too.

"So many of his friends contacted him and his parents about the picture. He actually had gone into the store the day before and he didn't have his mask on but he was wearing the same clothing," Small said.

According to investigators Wilbur attempted to tell police the picture wasn't of him, but between the two images and the online responses, they say he eventually had no choice but to confess.

"It's just a great tool. It's another tool we put in the kit to help us solve crimes," said Page.

In May, Detective Dotty Small will be presenting at the Maine Municipal Association's annual training conference where she will be discussing her department's use of social media. She said Ellsworth Police Department's Facebook page is the largest one for their demographic in the state of Maine. Their page has over 9,200 likes.


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