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Police turn to social media to combat crime

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State police on Wednesday began a new initiative to help catch wanted individuals statewide with tools that most have at their house, or even in their pocket.

This week saw the first “Warrant Wednesday,” during which wanted posters are added to the state police Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nyspolice and Twitter account at https://twitter.com/@nyspolice. Ten posters of those with active arrest or bench warrants across the state were posted Wednesday.

“New York State is using new and creative tools to help make our streets and neighborhoods safer,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. “Social media’s broad appeal can help the State Police track down those wanted in connection with crimes and bring them to justice.”

Though the program is very much in its infancy, results already have been seen. Police said the public’s assistance has led to the identification and arrest of several of the individuals posted Wednesday.

Each poster on the Facebook page contains a photo of the subject, information on the subject, what he or she was arrested for and a contact number for the appropriate state police station.

“We are expanding on a pilot program that we launched late last year that proved successful in the identification and arrest of several individuals,” State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said in a statement. “Expanding this initiative statewide will allow us to take full advantage of social media’s widespread reach to a large, diverse audience.”

The agency is not the first to use the “#WarrantWednesday” hashtag, but it is the first department of its size in the U.S. to do so. The Waterloo Regional Police Service in Cambridge, Ontario, has been using a similar system with the same hashtag since 2013, according to a search of its Twitter account. Town police in Vail, Colo., also have used the same hashtag in a similar manner.

State police urge those with information not to post tips directly on their Facebook page or Twitter account, but to call the appropriate state police office instead.

“The State Police has already seen the benefits of broadening our use of social media,” Mr. D’Amico said.

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