BRADENTON -- The Bradenton and Sarasota police departments say that the use of online tools and social media is leading to arrests and helping the community.
Within the past month, the Sarasota Police Department solved three cases with the help of social media The use of social media has also led to arrests in Bradenton.
Bradenton Deputy Police Chief Warren Merriman said that one of the recent cases solved through social media involved a kidnapping on June 8. The victim did not have a cell phone connection, but she had Wifi.
Through Facebook, the victim was able to contact her cousin in South Carolina and inform her of the kidnapping through a series of private messages. Hairston was able to relay information back to Bradenton police, who identified and killed the perpetrator during the rescue.
Merriman said that it is remarkable that this was all able to happen instantly, and he thanked the speed and efficiency of social media.
Facebook pages maintained by local police departments have also led to arrests.
Joshua Furr was wanted for dealing stolen property, defrauding a pawnbroker and grand theft. When Furr was arrested in Palm Beach, someone at the Palm Beach jail recognized Furr from the Sarasota Police Facebook page, and Furr was transported back to Saraso
ta and arrested.
Merriman said the best part is when criminals give themselves away by placing things on Facebook and Instagram, allowing investigators to obtain evidence. Merriman said that a simple Facebook status can provide investigator with key information.
"We can identify where they are staying with tagged locations, and they often provide comments through self-initiated posts that the investigators can follow up," Merriman said.
Merriman said the combination of different social media help the police collaborate.
"It is largely helpful in gang investigations," Merriman said. "We can identify possible retaliation and predict large gatherings and share that information."
Genevieve Judge, spokeswoman for the Sarasota Police Department, said that police departments have set up Facebook pages and Twitter Instagram and YouTube accounts.
"We have amped it up over the past few weeks," Judge said. "We have pictures, booking photos and video. It hits things on a whole other level."
Judge said that the sharing of web pages and "retweets" from the public and the media help police from multiple counties.
Both Merriman and Judge said social media will continue to be an even greater asset to crime fighting in the future.
"The future is extremely bright," Judge said. "The more people who join social media, the more crimes can be solved. It comes down to if you see something, say something."
Erica Earl, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.