MASON — Social media has become a daily part of life for many people, and the Mason Police Department is using that to their advantage.
Patrolman Gabriel Starcher recently began posting photos on the popular website “Facebook” of suspected criminals who were caught on camera, in an effort to get identification or an address.
“Social media is an important part of our lives now,” Starcher said. “We have to catch up with the times.”
So far, about 10 suspects have been posted on Facebook. According to Starcher, the posts have been very successful.
“Most have been identified within an hour,” Starcher said. “Normally, we get five to 10 phone calls.”
The patrolman said of the photos posted, most have been alleged shoplifters from Walmart in Mason, who were caught on the store’s camera. Others include suspects using stolen credit cards or people from other areas who are wanted on outstanding warrants.
Starcher said most law enforcement agencies have Facebook pages, including the Mason County Sheriff’s Department, Mason Deputies, West Virginia State Police, Point Pleasant Police Department, as well as nearby Ohio agencies. Not all of the departments use the sites to help apprehend alleged criminals, however.
“Since Facebook has so many other departments on it, we can share a post and expand our range of coverage,” Starcher stated. “It also shows the community we are actively doing our jobs, what issues we have, and what we deal with on a day-to-day basis.”
Mason Police Chief Jimmy Reynolds said along with the Facebook posts, the department has been taking full advantage of grants for extra programs.
The department just finished a “distracted drivers” campaign, which was aimed at people using cell phones or texting while driving. Ongoing at the present time is a DUI checkpoint program, and a “Click It or Ticket” campaign will be held March 4-20. Operated through the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, grant money is received to pay officers’ overtime wages to carry out the programs.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.