SIKESTON, MO — With the ever-growing popularity of social media, police have begun to find it a vital role in how they conduct some of their investigations.
Poplar Bluff Detective Daniel Mustain has been with the department for 13 years. He saw social networks evolve and finally become what they are today: a tool.
“There have definitely been advantages on our end,” said Det. said Mustain. “One of the things we use is our Facebook page to identify suspects of different crimes.”
The PBPD uses its Facebook page, often posting mugshots or surveillance videos or screenshots of cars and people to ask the public to help identify themselves.
Then the tip lines are opened. Mustain says that over the years he has helped identify more than 100 suspects in various crimes across the community. Suspects his believers wouldn’t have been caught without the public’s help.
“The community, they like to be involved,” Mustain said. “So with the community helping us solve crimes, it really creates connections between the branches where we work together as a community as a whole to help prevent crimes.”
The Sikeston Department of Public Safety is also asking for help in identifying the suspects on their own social media accounts. They also find that getting tips from people about what’s going on in the community has been beneficial in starting investigations earlier and before the game.
“We see people giving anonymous advice,” said Sgt. said Tyler Rowe. “It’s not anonymous when it’s on social media, but we have people saying hello to us, we think there’s something going on here, can you check it out. We’ll get some info on the excesses speeding or traffic issues and other things to look into. With our detectives today, the new anonymous hotline has really helped.”
Tips help officers get a head start in solving crimes and apprehending suspects. Without public assistance, they may fall behind in investigating.
“If we’re 12, 14, 24 hours behind on something, it’s pretty hard to catch up unless you get that information right away,” Rowe said. “So we always say if you see something say something, that’s all we ask.”
Of course, there are problems. Social media lends itself to public comment and cyberbullying when the platform is used. It also lends itself to scams.
Recently, some posts that are starting to be shared in the community do not belong there at all. Detective Mustain of Poplar Bluff recalls an article about a missing elderly man circulating. He said when he examined it, it was a message that had been circulating in cities across the country.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to fight certain things,” Mustain said. “And sometimes people just post things because they want attention, they just exaggerate specific details.”
Overall, however, social media has helped many ministries in many ways. They can share service news, fun events and gatherings, photos of their staff and community. They can also post weather or crime alerts, reminders and advice. Finally, they can post what they can to engage the public in community safety.
Facebook: Poplar Bluff Police Department
Non-urgent line: (573) 785-5776
Facebook: Sikeston Public Safety Department
Anonymous phone line: (573) 475-3774
Facebook: Cape Girardeau Police Department
Anonymous phone line: (573) 339-6313