Berks police solving more crimes thanks to social media tips

READING, Pa. - Social media is helping police departments in Berks County close more cases, according to law enforcement officials.

Reading, the county's largest police department, has upped its social media presence over the past few years. So has the second-largest force: the Exeter Township Police Department.

In that time, both agencies have been able to clear a large percentage of crimes just from tips on social media.

"That's where the conversations happen," said Sgt. Sean, Exeter Township Police Department, which has more than 13,000 Facebook followers. "We get many inquiries over social media."

The following has helped the department make arrest after arrest. Exeter police said posts on their Facebook page have helped them solve 80% of misdemeanor crimes like retail theft.

"We started five or six years ago, really getting heavy into the social media aspect and even seen a huge return in that small investment of time and effort," Fullerton said.

Reading police have more than 12,000 followers on Facebook, and when it comes to some of the minor crimes posted, investigators have been able to clear roughly 50% of them thanks to social media tips.

"It has helped tremendously over the years," said Capt. Paul Reilly, Reading Police Department. "It allows a sense of anonymity to the public."

While old-fashioned police work still works, police said there are benefits to images and videos being shared countless times. The social media approach is a sign of the times, and it's working.

"We've had a suspect turn themselves in," Reilly said. "They are asking for their picture to be taken down from social media."

Police said while social media is helpful for getting leads, they urge the public not to use it as a substitute to report crimes. The best way to do that is still filing an actual report with police over the phone or in person.

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