Spring Lake Park Police say social media often works to identify a person of interest in a crime when there are no other leads.
“I love social media I really do. It’s one of the things that I check when I go through my daily routine,” says Investigator Tony Bennek. “I log onto our social media to see if there’s any information from the public or tips after we’ve posted cases there.”
Bennek says he gets a positive identification with as many as 30 percent of the photos he posts on social media.
“This was a smash and grab burglary to an audio electronics store. We got some good surveillance video of the suspect in this crime,” said Bennek holding up the photo of a suspect taken by a surveillance camera. “I put this picture on our facebook page, and once again within 24 hours we had an identification on this one.”
When there are thefts, burglaries, or even assaults, Bennek says they often ask patrol officers to check for cameras and ask about video to help identify suspects when normal investigative procedures come up cold.
“Everywhere has cameras nowadays, everywhere has video. You are always on video or camera if you’re in public,” says Bennek.
“We’ve had very positive results in cases that have helped us bring cases to closure,” said Spring Lake Park Police Chief Doug Ebeltoft.
Ebeltoft says it’s a matter of keeping up with the technology that people are using.
“We need to stay on top of technology so that we can provide the best service for our community.” Ebeltoft also says a good picture helps make a stronger case when it comes to filing charges.
The newest move is to be part of the Ring Neighborhood app which allows homeowners with Ring cameras to voluntarily exchange information with police.
“If they see something maybe we are not aware of they’re able to forward it to us and make us aware of it,” says Ebeltoft. “It helps make the department more transparent with our community to address the needs of our community.”
Police know it takes cooperation from neighbors and businesses to actually get the photos they need. But they say they have that public support.
“People don’t like burglars in their city. People don’t like thieves in their city walking down their streets at night,” said Investigator Bennek. “If I post a picture of someone walking down the street at night that committed a crime, they’ll reach out right away to try to identify the suspect to help us get these people to keep their neighborhood more safe.”
Spring Lake Park officials say the Ring.com system allows homeowners to provide information anonymously. They also carefully adhere to privacy laws.