“There are a lot of comments on there that I would love to respond to,” said Robertson, who prepares press releases for the Detective Division. “But we’re not going to play that game.”
More than just busts
Along with reports of arrests, the Facebook page has also become the department’s preferred medium for getting out information on issues like street closings, a new smoking ban under the Pike Plan canopy in Uptown Kingston or traffic delays. Tinti has also encouraged officers to get creative with the page. Unofficial department historian, Lt. Thierry Crozier, has posted photos of his collection of police department insignia from Kingstons from Tennessee to Jamaica. Another officer posted pictures from the department’s firing range. Eventually, Tinti said, he would like to post police dashboard camera video of notable events “just to give the public an idea of what we deal with.
While the public, judging from the page’s 5,286 “Likes” seems to appreciate the timely information on crime in the city, for police, Facebook has become a valuable investigative tool. Tinti said that he first got an inkling of the page’s potential value as a tip generator last year when officers posted a photo of a dog found wandering the streets.
“Literally a minute and a half later someone posted saying, ‘Hey, I think I know that dog,” recalls Tinti. “I knew then that we were onto something.”
Facebook’s ability to spread information virally across the web via its “share” function has allowed cops to reach a far larger audience than a wanted poster on a post office wall or a mugshot on the evening news. When the department posted photos of a then-unknown woman who robbed a Rondout Savings Bank branch, the picture was shared across dozens of individual Facebook pages and eventually generated tips that led to an arrest. Earlier this month, police posted a sketch of the suspect in another bank robbery. It too generated leads, including one from man who commented that the sketch looked like a man who used to date his mother.
“There used to be cases where you’d have hardly any leads, now sometimes it feels like we have too many,” said Robertson. “I’d rather have too many.”