If you’re a police department and want to reunite people with their stolen property, you need to get pictures of recovered items in front of the public. What’s the best way to do that? Social media, of course. By posting albums on Facebook and Pinterest, departments can get pictures of recovered items in front of a maximum number of eyeballs, increasing the odds that someone will recognize a piece.
The Pinterest page of the Redwood City Police in California, for example, has numerous jewelry items, watches, and an empty laxative bottle for some reason. NPR reports that the page has reunited quite a few people with their property already, including one woman whose charm bracelet engraved with the names of her children had been stolen in a 1983 robbery. Police found the bracelet during a traffic stop in February 2014.
Claiming a piece of jewelry isn’t as simple as clicking “like” on a photo: you need proof that the item belongs to you, like a photo of you wearing the item, a police report, or a receipt. Still, the publicity has been great, and the agency also uses other social media platforms.
Well, okay, but that’s in California’s tech-infused Bay Area. What about in the rest of the country? Police agencies have been slow to adopt social media for their work. While 92% of departments using Facebook in at least some small official capacity, the Redwood City Pinterest page is the exception. Where else is law enforcement going to reach younger citizens who don’t turn on TV news or pick up a newspaper?
“It’s a way for us to reach people who wouldn’t have gotten our messages before, people who maybe don’t interact with traditional media,” a spokeswoman for the police in Kansas City, Missouri told NPR. Kansas City is another police department that uses Pinterest.