WESTERLY — Social media is proving to be an effective tool for local police, particularly in shoplifting and theft cases.
A pair of Facebook posts seeking help in identifying two suspected shoplifters at Walmart helped officers resolve one of the cases “in about an hour” on Monday, Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said. The police also received several tips in the second case, he said. The department has made five arrests in the past four months as a result of information obtained through social media interaction.
Lacey said the public is becoming accustomed to responding to online requests. “About five minutes after a picture was posted, we received multiple tips informing us of who the person was. Within 10 minutes, the suspect was in the station and speaking with officers regarding the particular complaint,” he said.
The police said the person, a local woman, had gone to the Walmart self-checkout and scanned her items but didn't pay for them. The woman resolved the matter quickly without arrest after she agreed to pay for the items. Her photo has since been removed from the Facebook page.
“It is definitely an effective tool. Nobody wants their picture put on blast like that,” Lacey said. “Our goal with these certainly isn’t to embarrass, but if it helps deter crime and aids us in resolving issues when a crime occurs, then it’s worth it.”
The police are still seeking information in a second Walmart theft from over the weekend. In that case, which remains on the police department’s Facebook page, the police said a woman had gone to self-checkout and scanned just a fraction of the items in her cart before paying. The police said she left with “much more” than she paid for.
Anyone who can identify the woman is asked to contact the Westerly Police Department at 401-596-2022.