Sioux City using social media to fight crime

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Sioux City police Officer Chad Sheehan spends quite a bit of time on Facebook when he’s at work. But his boss doesn’t seem to mind.

Sheehan is one of Siouxland’s crime fighters who uses social media to get the word out about wanted suspects as well as to communicate with tipsters using Facebook, Twitter and “text-a-tip.”

“I think it’s very important. It’s a great way for us to reach out to the community and for the community to reach out to us,” Sheehan told the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/1bOlyc1).

Earlier this year, the U.S. Marshals Service teamed up with the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office, sending information on fugitives to Maj. Greg Stallman, who then posts it on the department’s Facebook page.

“All we’re doing is getting the wanted person they’re looking for out,” Stallman said. “We’re happy to assist them; that’s what law enforcement is. We work together.”

It was this cooperation - along with the popularity of social media - that resulted in the arrest of Anthony Joseph Barton on Jan. 9.

Barton, 23, is accused of confronting his ex-girlfriend on Dec. 19 in the Lakeport Commons parking lot. He shot her several times with a stun gun, then hit her with her SUV and drove off, according to court documents.

A warrant was issued for his arrest on Jan. 6. Thanks to the viral nature of social media - as well as mainstream media - he was arrested three days later in Sergeant Bluff.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Mike Fuller said citizen tips were pivotal in Barton’s capture.

“Anyone we’re looking for, somebody knows them,” Fuller said. “By using social media and news media, and getting the word out, it’s a lot easier to canvass the neighborhood without actually knocking on doors.”

Well-known crime-fighting organizations Crime Stoppers and Neighborhood Watch were established in the 1970s as a way for regular people to keep their communities safe by calling in tips.

For Sheehan, one case sticks out among all others.

A call on the department’s Crime Stoppers phone line resulted in the capture and imprisonment of a man who intended to commit sexual assault.

“It was about a year ago. A suspect tried entering three homes in a two- to three-hour time span, with the intent to commit sexual assault,” he said. “An anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers actually led to the suspect being found in Omaha on charges he had that were similar to the crimes he committed here.”

Sheehan estimates the tipline receives anywhere from 10 to 100 calls a month.

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