Fighting crime through likes and shares

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Social media apps and websites are an increasingly popular way for important messages from law enforcement to reach the public.

“Why do we use it? So that we have a direct contact with the citizens we serve,” said Shenadoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter.

Armed with Facebook and Twitter, crime fighting tools are only a few clicks away.

Law enforcement officers across the valley are using social media to report crime trends and track down criminals and it’s proving effective.

Social Media has been around for more than a decade, but recently has been used as a tool for law enforcement.

If you “like” and “follow” the pages for police departments, sheriff’s offices, and first responders from across the Valley, you'll see a steady stream of posts throughout the day. With the number of followers in the thousands, the audience for these messages continues to grow.

“I have always believed in keeping that line of communication open,” said Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage.

Sheriffs are elected officials.

“Getting on social media was one of the things that I campaigned on,” said Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith. “It's my page. It's run by me.”

Smith uses social media as an outlet of information direct from the source and the communication is a two-way street built on trust.

“Knowing that the information they may give you will remain confidential,” said Cubbage. “That can be a very important role in solving a crime or whatever you may use it for in an investigation.”

Facebook followers who have provided tips and leads on respective agencies pages have proven invaluable.

“The public is our eyes and our ears. We have solved a pile of cases just by putting pictures and pictures of vehicles, pictures of suspects that have been involved in stuff,” said Smith. “They respond.”

For more information, check out the bonus videos in this article and watch the full report above the article.