Facebook Helps Virginia Police Catch Burglary Suspect

By KBJR News 1

July 11, 2012 Updated Jul 11, 2012 at 11:08 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - When Virginia police arrested a burglary suspect over the weekend, they had help with finding him. Facebook users helped them locate the suspect.

According to Virginia police, Michael William Devoy of Eveleth, allegedly broke into Tommy's Rainy Lake Saloon and Pizza in Virginia Saturday, stealing over $4,500 in cash.

Rainy Lake owner, Amy Martinich, posted a photo from the business' surviellance camera video on her Facebook wall. She says that she recieved a great response from her Facebook friends, many saying that they recognized the man in the photo.

However, the most help to law enforcement came from a friend of one of Martinich's Facebook friends, who said that they knew where the alleged burglar was located. It was that piece of information that helped police find Devoy.

"We were attempting to locate where he was and that was where Facebook helped us," said Officer Jared Kral of the Virginia Police Department, "The picture of the suspect in front of people that we normally wouldn't have known about or had contact with, it gave them a reason to contact us."

Officer Kral said that the Virginia Police Department has seen an increase in people reaching out to them through social media.

"It hasn't happened a lot," he said, "but it's getting more and more common that we're getting complaints or comments on a Facebook page."

The Virginia Police Department isn't alone in their use of social media in law enforcement. Other departments are using tools like Facebook to post pictures of suspects online, hoping that Facebook users will recognize them and send information to the department.

"It's an investigative tool and a public awareness tool," said Duluth Police Department Officer Jim Hansen of the department's use of social media.

The Duluth Police Department posts photos of suspects on their Facebook page, including those of their 'Property Crimes Wanted Person of the Week.'

"If we can get that many more people just helping us out and helping us locate a suspect," he said, "We'll have that much more chance that we're going to locate them."

Both the Virginia and Duluth Police Departments say they're open to expanding their use of social media within their departments.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.