Crowdsourcing Criminals: How a Local Newspaper Uses Pinterest to Catch Bad Guys

Social media is creating new opportunities for citizens to engage with law enforcement.

A new kind of DIY project is sweeping Pinterest: catching criminals.

The Mercury, a local newspaper in Pottstown, Penn., created a Pinterest board called “Wanted by Police,” where crime reporters pin photos of citizens who have warrants out for their arrest. The results have been nothing short of amazing:

"We've actually seen a 57 percent increase in our warrant services, and we actually got more people based on our tips and our calls," [police captain F. Richard] Drumheller says.

"Warrant services" is police speak for arrests.

"For us it's like, 'Yes,' because it's very enjoyable in police work when the public helps you," Drumheller says.

This isn't a most wanted list. Pottstown has a couple of dozen photos up at a time, all people with outstanding warrants — from DUI to theft to assault. Drumheller says some people even called to say they had seen their own mug shot online and asked how to turn themselves in to authorities.

Listen to or read a transcript of To Catch A Suspect — On Pinterest on NPR’s website.

Steve Buttry, a digital transformation editor for Digital First Media and Journal Register Company, interviewed Brandie Kessler, the crime reporter who created this successful new social media initiative. She offers some background on the mission:

Pottstown police department has a public list of persons wanted by their department for a variety of offenses. I created a board using a collection of mug shots of Pottstown’s wanted persons along with a snapshot of what each individual is wanted for. I then posted that “board” to our Facebook page, where more than 6,600 of our readers are able to view it regardless of whether they have their own Pinterest log in.

It’s also great to give the public an opportunity to help improve the quality of life in their community. One thing I hear from the local police chiefs is there are only X amount of police officers on their respective forces, and they would love the community’s help in being more efficient. This board facilitates that.

Read Pottstown Mercury’s wanted-poster-style Pinboard is resulting in arrests on The Buttry Diary, and see a screenshot of the board, below. Click here to view the board on Pinterest.

Using Pinterest to catch Criminals

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Dec 10 2012