In this age of technology, it’s become easy and convenient to make observations about the world around us via social media.
This can be lovely – who doesn’t enjoy a sunset photo? – as well as frustrating. Personal feuds are battled out online, complaints are aired anonymously and “news” is spread quickly and without verification from trusted sources.
According to San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs, this “turning to Facebook first” approach has become a hindrance for crime reporting. He says community members make allegations online about reckless driving, drug use and driving under the influence but never call the sheriff’s office.
Writing on social media about suspected illegal behavior is not the way to report a crime. Our police officers are not perusing Facebook for calls to pursue. If a witness statement is not in the office’s database it cannot be used as evidence to build cases and prosecute criminals.
If you have information about a crime, call the anonymous hotline at 360-370-7629, or the regular number at 360-378-4151. Krebs is looking into creating another line than that can receive text messages, which might encourage younger islanders to reach out. We think this is a great idea and would be utilized by many.
We also suggest the sheriff look into allowing islanders to file reports through the county’s website. The Seattle Police Department offers online crime reporting for non-emergency incidents like property destruction, graffiti, shoplifting, drug activity and lost property.
A community that is on alert for illegal behavior can be key to successfully prosecuting a case, but if not reported properly, eyewitness statements are useless. We should be the extra eyes and ears for our trained law enforcement, and turn over information through the proper channels. If you see something suspicious, get as much information as you can (license plate number, physical features, date and time) and call the anonymous hotline.
We ask islanders to refrain from using social media as a tool to accuse someone of a crime. It’s unproductive for us all. When your fingers are hovering over the keyboard, itching to post that photo of an illegally parked vehicle or rant about your problematic neighbors, think twice. We have a choice – as humans, as citizens, as members of a special community – to contribute positively or negatively to our environment.