Evart Police Department utilizes social media to identify suspects

EVART — Would-be criminals in the Evart area: beware before you steal that soda or drive off without paying for gas – your mug may end up on Facebook.

The Evart Police Department is using its social media site as a tool to track down people suspected of crimes in the community.

Within the last few months, Evart Police Chief Kendra Backing said the department has posted surveillance photos from two retail fraud complaints on Facebook, which has aided police in solving the crimes.

“Thousands of people were able to view the posts, which led to tips flowing in and suspects being identified,” Backing said. “One case is closed and ended in an arrest, and charges are pending in the other case.”

With a small police department of just two full-time officers, Backing said utilizing the Facebook page is an important tool and has proven to be beneficial.

Because many of Evart’s business are located along U.S. 10, there is a possibility people committing crimes are just passing through, making it difficult for police and local residents to identify suspects. However, Facebook allows posts to reach a larger audience to assist in identifying an individual.

“Businesses have surveillance footage, but if we aren’t familiar with the individual it doesn’t help us very much. They could commit a crime and be on their way,” Backing said. “Although we don’t know who they are, somebody out there does and that’s why we’ve been using Facebook.”

While the Evart Police Department has had its Facebook page for about two years, Backing said it is being used more frequently now for a variety of reasons.

Along with the recent posts seeking assistance identifying suspects, the page features posts about property turned into the department in hopes of tracking down the owner, information about community events and pictures of officers visiting schools.

“It allows the community to see us in a different light,” Backing said. “We’re not programmed to just write tickets and arrest people. We go to the middle school Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduations and attend community events, such as the Easter Egg Drop.”

The majority of the responses and interactions on the Facebook page have been positive and Backing said they will continue to update the page, including posts to help solve crimes.

Backing said had the photos not been put on the department’s Facebook page, the individuals involved in the two retail frauds wouldn’t be identified and it would just be a loss to the business.

“Our community is a whole wealth of information,” Backing said. “By reaching out we’re letting them know that we are doing our job and we can do it better with their help.”