What the Tech?: Philly Police Use Social Media to Solve Crimes

Philadelphia Police are turning to social media outlets to help them solve crimes.

By Vince Lattanizo
|  Saturday, Apr 14, 2012  |  Updated 8:43 AM EDT
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The Philadelphia Police Department is using technology to help them close cases. NBC10's Vince Lattanzio reports.

NBC10 Phildelphia - Vince Lattanzio

The Philadelphia Police Department is using technology to help them close cases. NBC10's Vince Lattanzio reports.

When we think of police solving crimes, we can imagine detectives combing the streets for clues. But increasingly the Philadelphia Police Department is turning to technology to help close cases.

“It's extremely invaluable because we're solving crime that we would've never solved before," Philadelphia Police Lt. Raymond Evers said.

It...is social media. Philadelphia Police are no longer just fighting crime by hitting the pavement, they’re tweeting, posting pictures to Facebook and uploading surveillance video to YouTube to help catch bad guys.

Investigators say the social push is working. In February, a 6-year-old girl was kidnapped and allegedly sexually assaulted while walking to a corner grocery store in Kensington. Detectives quickly tweeted and posted the suspect’s picture on Facebook and shared it with the media.

“In 16 minutes, we made an arrest because we got it out through social media, through all the news stations,” Lt. Evers said. “The arrest was made in a completely different district so we would’ve never found that male.”

The suspect, Marcise Turner, is now awaiting trial. Since 2011, Philadelphia Police have posted 225 videos to YouTube, videos that have gotten more than 1.5 million views and have resulted in 65 arrests.

Police administration has also encouraged officers and detectives to connect with the community on Facebook and Twitter – to not just share crime information, but also build relationships.

“We need to get back in touch with the public that we serve. You can't do it driving down the street in a Crown Victoria. You just can’t,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.

The department is continuing to expand their digital reach into the community. They’ve just launched a mobile version of their website, PhillyPolice.com, that uses your smartphone’s GPS to share the nearest police precinct.

A new smartphone app called iWatch Philadelphia, lets citizens submit tips with detailed location and suspect information. They can also attach images and video to help detectives solve crimes quickly. Those apps are available for download now for Apple and Android devices.

In the coming weeks, the department will also unveil a new texting short-code, so that people can simply text their tip to them right from any cell phone.

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