MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A new tactic by Connecticut State Police is already helping with cases, and it’s something you probably use every day. The State Police has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and a trooper in the public information office is spearheading a new push to use them. Just this week, social media posts led to the IDs of two suspects.
Six weeks ago, a crew of thieves stole hundreds of dollars in merchandise from the I-95 rest areas in Branford.
“They hit the north and southbound rest area, stole a whole bunch of stuff, and there’s a clear picture,” said Trooper Tyler Weerden of the State Police.
Despite having a clear picture of one suspect, troopers did not get any good leads for six weeks. Then they put that photo on Facebook and got an identification of the woman pretty much right away.
“We’re actually solving a lot of crime now just by getting people out there to get some extra eyes,” Weerden said.
Same thing with surveillance video of a suspect in a burglary in Durham. It happened Monday and they got good images off a surveillance camera
“So we put it out on social media and less than two days later we had 85,000 views and 1,300 shares and he was identified,” Weerden said. “So someone saw that on their Facebook and said, ‘Hey, I know that guy.'”
Now, police are trying that same approach to cold cases. Other departments are doing this, too. Baltimore Police put out a “Wanted Wednesday” video every week, complete with theme music and graphics. Now Connecticut Troopers are doing something similar. This week’s “Wanted Wednesday” featured Collin Blair of Waterbury, who is wanted for first degree escape.
“We have plenty of fugitive cases that are just sitting in the file cabinet, why not get them out there?” said Weerden. “So now, every Wednesday, the troopers are going to send in someone they’re trying to hunt down and we’ll get the information out there.”
Since it is social media, it ends up being a conversation. It’s mostly supportive. Someone wrote “Way to go CSP” and Police wrote back “Way to go Connecticut residents and visitors following this page! Tips directly from social media identified two suspects from different cases in less than 3 days.”
“I think as people see success and the troopers see it working, they’re going to come on board more and sending in more stuff,” said Weerden.
Identifying a suspect is not the same as solving a crime, but they do provide a big help to police and let them enter another phase of the investigation.