12 Tri-State police departments don’t use Facebook. Should they?

The Mason Police Department does not post on Facebook despite the City of Mason having three pages.
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 9:50 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Social media has become a tool many police departments across the Tri-State consider an asset used to quickly notify residents of criminal activity and to assist with investigations.

Police in Delhi, Blue Ash, Covington, Cincinnati and 74 other agencies across our region have their own social media pages and will often post seeking help from the community.

“We turn to Facebook, social media and we just seem like we get information to more people, more of the community than we do doing press releases or doing interviews (or) putting it on our website,” Middletown Police Chief David Birk said.

While many departments use their own accounts to communicate with the communities they serve, there are 24 police departments in the Tri-State that do not have their own social media pages.

Twelve of those departments will post via their city, township or village-run social media pages. The other half either do not have their own page, have a page that’s been inactive for more than 2-years or don’t utilize social media for investigations or crime alerts.

HISTORICALLY HELPFUL

Using social media for investigations or to inform residents of trends in crime specific to their area is not a new police practice.

In March 2016, FOX19 reported on a Butler County Sheriff’s Office Twitter post calling for community help. Within four hours of sending out the tweet, the Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect and had that person in-custody.

At the time, Cpt. Lance Bunnell recalled, “That tip actually came in earlier than four hours. It was just a matter of us weeding out through the tips that we got, because we get a bunch of them. We truly do, and it’s amazing the amount of the community that wants to help.”

In 2020, Springfield Township Police posted on the Township-run Facebook page about a door-to-door magazine sales scam. Within an hour of their post going up, police arrested six people connected to the scam and thanked the community for their assistance.

‘NO RESULTS FOUND’

Not every Police Department in the Tri-State can be found on social media. Below are the 12 police departments who do not have their own page, have a page that’s been inactive for more than 2-years or don’t utilize social media for investigations or crime alerts:

  • City of Mason Police Department;
  • Waynesville Police Department;
  • Harveysburg Police Department;
  • Owensville Police Department;
  • Leesburg Police Department;
  • Peebles Police Department;
  • Winchester Police Department;
  • Williamstown (KY) Police Department;
  • Falmouth Police Department;
  • Brooksville Police Department;
  • Oldenburg Police Department; and
  • Sunman Police Department.

FOX19 reached out to those departments. Many cited staffing as the reason for their lack of a social media presence. For example, Brooksville’s Police Department consists of just one officer, Owensville’s department has just two full-time officers.

The largest department to make the list is the City of Mason’s Police Department, which employs 49 people. They also serve the largest number of residents of all the departments on this list: Mason’s population is twice again as large as the other 11 jurisdictions combined.

DOES SOCIAL MEDIA ACTUALLY HELP WITH INVESTIGATIONS?

Measuring the impact of social media on investigations is a difficult task. None of the departments FOX19 contacted keep records on how many investigations were aided by the use of social media.

The City of Oxford Police Department, however, went back and crunched the numbers for all of their posts in 2021. The department says nearly half of the cases they posted about on social media were solved with the help of their online community.

“I was pleasantly surprised that it was just about half of the posts that we made looking for a suspect, or looking for a crime to be solved had been solved by way of social media,” Lt. Lara Fening said.

We requested information on investigations from police departments in Hamilton, Lebanon, Mason and Middletown. In 2021, Mason detectives were assigned a new case every three days on average, and the City reports a clearance rate of 41.4%. That same year Hamilton, Lebanon and Middletown all reported clearance rates above 80%.

  • Hamilton – 98%
  • Lebanon – 89.3%
  • Mason – 41.4%
  • Middletown – 80%+

WHY HAS MASON HIT DISLIKE ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

FOX19 twice requested an interview with city officials in Mason to discuss why they’re not using the resource for investigations. Mason Assistant City Manager Jennifer Heft emailed a response that reads:

“The city has several resources through which we communicate to our residents. The City Manager has responsibility over many different departments with varying responsibilities. We evaluate communication resource(s) and determine which resource(s) is the best fit for the situation/event/activity etc.

“In almost every scenario all City departments are involved in some manner. Ensuring there is a consistent, accurate City response and communication is significant. Our communication avenues for the most part include City social media (three Facebook, three Twitter), CenterPoint publication, e-newsletters and REACH televisions. In addition, we use the City’s CodeRed system, Warren County Communication’s Reverse 911 and the old fashion but effective megaphones and actual door-to-door visits that can be implemented for target areas of the City or citywide.

“Our communication response is dictated by the situation. We are not opposed to using City’s webpage, social media accounts when necessary. To date, I don’t believe a separate Police social media account/page would have altered an outcome of a situation. Things are always evolving, and we would never rule out a possible need for separate Police page in the future.”

The last time the City of Mason used their Facebook page to alert residents to a trend in crime was a 2019 scam alert.

Heft also mentions CenterPoint Publication as tool the police department uses for communication with residents. A quick search for the word “police” in their fall edition turns up an article on American flag etiquette, general tips for protecting against mail theft and a phone scam article.

The City of Mason operates three Facebook pages: the City of Mason page, the Recreation Department page and the Economic Development Department’s page. The City of Mason Police do not have their own page.

The department has crime to report as well. In 2021, Mason PD took more than double the reports as Middletown and Lebanon. (Not every report taken by a police department results in a criminal investigation.)

IS IT TOO LATE TO START ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

While the focus of our story was on city, township or village police departments there has been some social media movement at the county level with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office has had a Twitter account for several years but only recently started using the platform to assist in investigations.

Since we started asking questions about their use of social media, the Winchester Police Department says they plan on looking into expanding their online presence.

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