RPD Facebook presence helps close case

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

In a climate of diminishing resources and overcrowded prisons that push criminals back onto the streets earlier than ever, Ridgecrest Chief of Police Ron Stand has found that use of social media and cooperation from an engaged public has given his department an edge in preserving public safety.

“We just launched our Facebook page a month ago with the intent of giving us another outlet to reach the public,” said Strand.

Last week, the speedy incarceration of a burglary suspect testified to the effectiveness of that tool.

The RPD page has about 900 followers and gives regular updates on the police log and news releases about events like saturation patrols and the upcoming PD open house. On Saturday, an administrator posted a photo of a burglary suspect that was captured on a security camera.

“We had a name from the public and the suspect in custody within a couple of hours,” said Strand, who notified that the post also racked up about 13,000 hits.

“This falls in line with our mission to partner with the community to preserve public safety.

“We noticed a few months back that there was a report that went viral on Facebook with inaccurate information. At the time we didn’t have a good way to correct that. So that is another reason we’ve increased our presence online.”

Strand said he hopes to see the number of subscribers climb to 5,000 or more. “I am not really a Facebook person, but if you think about it, this is probably the fastest way to get the word out on a road closure or a downed power line or an Amber Alert.”

The PD posted a missing-child alert a couple of weeks ago. “We found the child within the hour, but I am not sure how much impact Facebook had on that particular case.”

Strand said that he and his sergeants administer the page. And while pushing information out is critical, he said, so is receiving that feedback from the community. “Positive or negative — and I value both — it gives the public a way to give us information as well. That information doesn’t always turn out to be anything serious, but sometimes it might be the key to solving a case.”

He acknowledged that the fiscal crisis sometimes poses a challenge to providing service — for example at night the PD has one person to field all calls, emergency and otherwise. “If we can get information out as soon as it’s available, that might save us from having 500 people call us and find out what’s going on.

“But the main benefit is that we have to change our way of policing to adapt to our environment. Reaching out to the community is a big part of that. And our community has really risen to their role in keeping engaged. I think that will have a very beneficial impact on helping us keep our community safe.”

Story First Published: 2013-04-17