DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) — Captain Jeremy Muraski of the De Pere Police Department did not see the rise of social media use in police work coming.
“Ten years ago or thereabouts, I would not have seen it going this way,” he said.
He credits smartphones with the phenomenon.
“I think it really started to change when smartphones came out,” Capt. Muraski said. “Once people really started to have that capability to be mobile in their hand, that’s when a lot of this information sharing really started to take off.”
Appleton Police credit social media with a tip that lead to the arrest in a recent hit-and-run, the same kind of tip the De Pere Police Department also regularly receives via social media.
“We put out surveillance photos for suspicious incidents, and a lot of times people can help us identify people in the video,” Capt. Muraski said. “We’ll have people that will actually turn themselves in because they don’t want their picture out on Facebook.”
According to Captain Muraski, there was an adjustment period for the department when social media use was first becoming widespread.
“It’s definitely a learning curve,” he said, “and it’s something that is just going to continue to evolve.”
Earlier this year, the De Pere Police Department started using the Ring app.
Soon, they’ll add the app “You Get it First” to their online repertoire, which will allow the department to send notifications directly to app users.
“Any kind of rapidly unfolding situation, we want to empower our officers to be able to spread that word out and get it out to as many people as they possibly can,” Muraski said. “If we can’t quickly communicate to people where they are, in an emergency especially, that really puts us at a disadvantage.”
But while police departments have learned how to utilize social media to their advantage, Capt. Muraski said so have criminals.
“It takes a lot for us to learn about those social media platforms, figure out how the bad guys are exploiting them, and then how do we fully investigate those?” he explained.
For all the complications, Capt. Muraski said the information gathered via social media has proven invaluable to police.
“We can only do as much as we know about,” he said. “Obviously we can go out and find a lot of things for ourselves, but the more information people share with us, the better job we can do being responsive to the community.”