Wanted, On a Pinboard
Newspapers have long printed the local police blotter.
In the town where I grew up (population 5,000, one stop light) it was almost kind of fun in its ongoing innocence. Fictitious but accurate example: Suspicious car reported on Main Street, upon investigation police determined that Michael Smith was visiting his parents, Karen and Brian.
In our networked world, the blotter is taking new shapes. Or, those wanted by local police may find themselves on a Pinterest board and not just the local paper.
The Pottstown Mercury, a local Pennsylvania newspaper, has come up with a simple, but effective way to use social networking to fight crime. A few months ago, Brandie Kessler, a reporter for the Mercury, set up a Pinterest board called Wanted by Police. It consists of a continuously updated roster of mug shots of wanted individuals in the Pottstown area along with a description of the crimes they are charged with. Within a few short months, tips generated through the board have led to a dramatic increase in the apprehension of suspects in this borough outside Philadelphia.
Kessler wrote in September that local police estimate a 58 percent increase in the number of arrests since the Pinterest site went up in July. (It’s worth noting that this is a borough of just 22,000 people, so a few arrests could make a huge difference. But still that is an impressive number.) Kessler says she had previously created a slideshow of people with warrants out for their arrest on the newspaper’s website, but because it didn’t operate smoothly and was difficult to share on Facebook and Twitter, it wasn’t nearly as popular. As of Monday night, Wanted by Police had 881 followers on a board featuring 59 mug shots.
Now, wanted doesn’t mean guilty which can lead to troubling privacy issues. So too turning a town and region into pinboard detectives. But the practice is an extension of what was traditionally written up in the local paper. Just way, way more publicly.
Image: Screenshot, Wanted By Police, by the Pottsdown Mercury.