Crimestoppers Fighting Crime by Using Social Networking

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA - It's not just about search dogs, crime labs and fingerprinting when it comes to fighting crime. West Texas authorities are turning to the phones, websites and social networking and they're cracking more cases than ever. Crimestoppers isn't a new program but the way officers are using it is rapidly changing.

Crimestoppers in both Midland and Odessa tell NewsWest 9, their success rate is huge. They're using outlets like social media and texting getting tips from not only witnesses on crime scenes but kids in the classroom. They say, the secret to the program's success is that tipsters can stay completely anonymous.

"There's been an increase in cases solved, there's been an increase in property recovered and there's been an increase in arrests," Sgt. David Garcia with the Midland Police Department, said.

MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and texting aren't just for fun and free time, they're helping officers in Midland and Odessa crack some of the Basin's biggest cases.

"It's been incredible to see what's come through," Susan Rogers with Odessa Crimestoppers, said. "Our tips have normally been over the phone and you're just talking with someone and taking information which we do a lot of. But because of the technology, people are not afraid to go in and copy down website pages."

In fact, with a little research, tipsters are finding Facebook and MySpace accounts worked by the suspects, some whom have even posted pictures and videos of evidence or stolen property. The tipsters send the page to Crimestoppers who have all the info they need to make an arrest.

"We had a hit and run where they actually uploaded a picture of the vehicle involved to show us. It was exactly what we were looking for," Rogers said.

Crimestoppers even finds text messages or pictures sent in as a crime is happening allowing officers to get to the scene faster.

"We can't put a police officer on every corner, so we rely on the public to be our eyes and ears out there," Sgt. Garcia said.

Odessa Crimestoppers launched a Facebook page for ECISD students. It gives them a way to find out what's happening on their campus and an anonymous way to report crimes they might see during the school day.

"Through technology, through web tips and texting, we can actually sit there and text back and forth," Rogers said. "We've already had several this school year where they've texted things that are happening on the campus and we can sit there and converse with them via text and get that information to campus officers in real time."