Facebook helping police make arrests

Friday , January 18, 2013 - 3:41 PM

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Elliott Jones

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A police Facebook page helped match a face to a crime within two days of a posting, police said Friday.

Wayne Evans, 42, was apprehended Thursday after 200 Facebook users passed along to their friends a photo of him that police posted Tuesday.

From that came tips and phone calls and Evans’ arrest on charges of a Dec. 20 burglary of a home and theft of a wallet. Now he is in jail in lieu of an $18,800 bail.

Until the advent of social media, police mainly relied on sending wanted-person bulletins to other law-enforcement agencies or to Crime Stoppers. Having a police Facebook page “broadens what we can do,” said police spokesman Sgt. Dennis McWilliams. “It increases the amount of people seeing this stuff.”

And “it is good to see the community get involved and take an interest in protecting our community,” he said.

The police Facebook page was started in 2010, and this is the first time it has been used so successfully, a development McWilliams attributed to the quality of the photo of Evans that police say was taken by an ATM within seven minutes of the robbery.

Investigators were able to track down the photo after the robbery victim called PNC Bank to report the theft of his ATM card from a home a mile away. That led to investigators finding that someone attempted to use the card shortly after the robbery and a security camera showed who that was, police said.

“Having the picture was great, but with the help of our Facebook fans, we were able to identify Evans and now he is in jail,” said Police Chief R. Sean Baldwin.

Still, police are left with doing old-fashioned police work to prosecute the case. Detectives quoted Evans as saying, “He was walking down Virginia Avenue and found the wallet and used the card,” McWilliams said.

(Elliott Jones writes for Scripps Treasure Coast (Fla.) Newspapers, The Stuart News, Fort Pierce Tribune and Vero Beach Press Journal. Email Elliott.Jones@scripps.com.)

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