WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Wilmington Police Department is always looking out for the bad guys, but now more than ever they're using social media to both stop and solve crimes.
Jennifer Dandron, spokesperson with WPD, said the department uses tools like Facebook and Twitter to identify suspects, including the suspect in a recent hit and run in downtown Wilmington.
"Sometimes they will even tag the person," she said. "If they don't want to be brazen they will private message us, and they still have the option to text a tip, which is anonymous. It is amazing that people can talk to the police on this personal level. Social media has really opened us up to a wider audience."
Dandron said officers are now trained in social media, and the department encourages officers to reach out to people to break down barriers between communities and police.
"Our law enforcement officers are members of the communities they serve," she said. "It kind of humanizes us a bit. We are more than just a person with a badge. Now we have a face, and now we have someone engaging them and talking to them directly, messaging them. It is not a robot behind the computer who sends out these messages, but an actual person who is talking to them."
The WPD also uses social media to search for online crimes and to catch suspects they may not even have a picture of.
"We use it to solve crimes by looking as suspect likes, what they're commenting, where they're checking in," said Dandron. "What you post on social media, we can see. We use that to our advantage."
Dandron said the police department is also looking to add an Instagram in the future.
"Not every social media is the same," she said. "You can't just have a one size fits all social media plan. It is something that we sit down and talk about regularly in the office about how are going to reach an audience and how well we utilize Twitter versus Facebook. We are really excited to add Instagram in the future."