The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 8, 2013

Facebook on patrol

County employs social media in fighting crime

— Scofflaws, beware. While there is no new sheriff in town, there is a new weapon he’s using, and it’s proving pretty effective in catching the bad guys.

It’s called the social media – in this case, more specifically, Facebook – and it’s something most young people know about and use. For Cambria County Sheriff Bob Kolar, a not-so-young man, it’s something he’s more than willing to learn about.

In case you missed our weekend story by reporter Kathy Mellott, Kolar and Cambria County President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder are singing the praises of Deputy Sheriff Tracy Swope, an 11-year veteran of the department.

“She’s gone above and beyond to run down people wanted on bench warrants, and the men and women who are serving these warrants are better protected,” Lengenfelder said.

Swope, Kolar said, uses Facebook to locate individuals wanted on any number of warrants.

She, too, often is letting deputies know what they might be walking into before the arrest. She’s doing this all by interacting with Facebook users and by processing tips and other useful information.

For our readers who don’t understand Facebook, it’s an Internet function allowing interaction among people in which they create, share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

“People are sharing this stuff. They are just getting the word out,” Swope told Mellott.

“They’ll say things like, ‘look here, you might want to look in this area for someone.’ ”

“(Tracy’s) short in stature. But don’t let that fool you, she is a giant when it comes to work ethic,” Kolar said.

In February alone, Swope’s Facebook work was credited with seven apprehensions.

That’s huge.

Obviously, the sheriff’s department has found another great crime-fighting weapon thanks to Swope.

Perhaps other agencies have found success on Facebook, too. We hope so.

And if not, they need to log in.

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