Shoplifters being ID’d on BPD Facebook page




THE CAMERA DOESN’T LIE — Bridgton Police were able to identify this man who allegedly stole items from Renys department store in Bridgton Dec. 11, after posting video surveillance photos on the department’s Facebook page. Bridgton Police have been able to solve four theft cases in six weeks by using Facebook to post either photos or video from store surveillance cameras and then asking fans to message them on Facebook or call the department directly.By Gail Geraghty

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Police have used their Facebook page to solve four recent shoplifting cases over a six-week period. That degree of crime solving, if nothing else, proves the value of using social media as a tool to interact with the public, Police Chief Kevin Schofield said Monday.

“It allows us to instantaneously ask 3,600 people, ‘Do you know this person?’ and that’s one of the points we’ve been trying to emphasize,” Schofield said. The current fan base for the page is 3,626 as of Monday. That’s over 300 more “likes” than less than a month ago, when the Bridgton Board of Selectmen came close to ordering a drastic change in the page’s format by making it a “read-only” page.

Schofield said he may also begin posting photos of local persons wanted on outstanding warrants to see if the public can help in locating these individuals. The state now has technology enabling them to provide local police departments with an arrest warrant database that’s updated daily, he said.

The Facebook page was begun by Officer Joshua Muise in April 2010, but didn’t begin posting video surveillance until recently. The note accompanying the photos or video asks fans to not leave tips in the comment section, but to send a private message or phone the department directly instead.

In one case, a Norway Police officer who was checking out Bridgton’s Facebook page recognized the woman in a surveillance photo who allegedly stole a pair of shoes from Renys, said Schofield. Norway police were familiar with the woman through prior case contacts, he said.

In another case, a man who said friends told him, “Hey, you’re all over the page,” after he was shown on a surveillance camera entering Renys took the initiative and called Bridgton Police to proclaim his innocence, Schofield said. However, the complete record from the surveillance cameras allegedly caught the man in the act of stealing. “The video evidence was definitive,” Schofield said.

The video evidence wasn’t as clear, however, in a Nov. 18 theft at the Big Apple convenience store on Main Street. Several fans commented that it was very hard to see the man’s face clearly, after viewing the 30-second video that was posted, showing the man walking around the store. The clip does not show the actual alleged theft. The man has yet to be identified or arrested.

Schofield has said the department’s Facebook page is a step above working with traditional news media to seek the public’s help to identify a suspect. He said there’s no guarantee the newspaper or TV station will choose to run the photo or video footage; with Facebook, the department controls the flow of information.

Fans of the page appear to enjoy being asked to help the police solve crimes, based on several comments made after surveillance footage results in an arrest. “This is exactly why you need to keep Facebook,” said fan Daniel Harden. “If it only helps one thing, then it is worth it.”

“Keep posting and we will keep reporting,” said Mary Cleveland. And Rachel Legere wrote, “Shoplifting costs us all with higher prices and people can (and do) lose their jobs when store inventories are short. It is a real crime. Thanks to everyone who cares enough to step up. Thanks BPD!”


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