Sheriff uses Facebook to deputize entire county

While Sheriff Al Lamberti's 10,000+ Facebook fans don't technically have any power to do anything like making an arrest, it's been with their help that he's brought justice to a collection of crimes that might otherwise have never been solved. Lamberti's beat is Broward County, Florida, and he's been on the force in that sector for 34 years. A crime solved in this vein recently was an air conditioning theft and resale group whose description and car make were posted by Lamberti and thusly seen by his 10k fans. Inside 2 days of the post, a homeowner called 911 and said "I think they're at the house next door," this resulting in four arrests. Lamberti for the win?

Over at the Consumerist, mister Ben Popken spoke with Lamberti this week and asked him several questions on why crowdsourcing, as you might call it, is working for the police force in Broward County. Lamberti noted that the air conditioner theft case would normally have taken several months, starting with an internal conflict as well as heavy talks about resource allocation, then talks with both Crime Watch and Neighborhood Watch (similar projects in which citizens are keeping watch over their own community) and more than likely a special task force would have to be created. A lead would need to be generated, and a few months later an arrest would MAYBE be made. Instead, in this case, that whole process was effectively dismissed and an arrest was made in less than a week – two days, to be exact.

Sheriff Lamberti's fan page currently sits at 5,700 at the time of this posting, and as Lamberti notes, "We could have never touched that many people through Crime Watch." Through this page fans will learn such mundane things as when Lamberti is draining the local pool to important events like the 11th Annual Bubbles & Bones Gala and his re-election campaign that inevitably pops up here and there. Requests for help and/or information from the citizens of his county are what we're really looking for though, as they appear very much to be rather effective.

"A lot of crimes now are non-traditional, like prescription drug abuse and identity theft. All these new waves of crime we just don't have the resources to deal with them while still going after bank robberies and auto theft. ...When you talk about reducing budget and service, you need the public on your side more. Social media is a force multiplier." -Lamberti

Such power was also shown in a case of coupon stealing this year in which after Lamberti sent out the call for information, an individual was filmed stealing the coupons from newspaper bins. In addition to the film, Lamberti got over 100 private messages regarding the thefts, and upon a local news reporter taking another camera to film showing the footage to the suspect, he admitted stealing the coupons. At which point, of course, the police were able to make an arrest without any additional resources dedicated to the case. How's that for saving taxpayer money?

[via the Consumerist]