PC Facebook helping in battle against shoplifters

By Roger Moroney

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High-profile foot patrols and the publicity power of Facebook has kept shoplifting incidents in check across Hawke's Bay at a time of the year when there is usually a rise.

Facebook had been particularly effective in solving several shoplifting reports since police set it up in the Bay last August, eastern police crime prevention officer Paul Miller said.

"We have had people ringing up and saying 'that's me' - they had not been aware they were on there," Mr Miller said.

"Facebook is very popular and draws a lot of people in and we have had some very good results."

People had recognised themselves and handed themselves in, he said. "No one wants to see themselves on there, being looked for."

Mr Miller said that in the past security camera shots of shoplifters generally got passed around police staff to see if anyone could identify the person. "Now they go on to Facebook and it's working very well."

A check with the site yesterday showed three people, a man and two women, snapped on security cameras recently and now being sought by police. He said another plus was that people were able to provide information through the anonymity of the 0800 555 111 Crimestoppers line when they recognised someone on the site.

Over the past three months, police had also increased the prevention approach by putting foot patrols through not only shopping districts but some of the larger, often targeted, stores. "In the past, we would often only go to the big stores and supermarkets to pick up shoplifter who had been caught. But now we have officers walking through them on patrol."

Mr Miller said the increased visibility factor, or "pre-emptive presence", appeared to have played a part in keeping shoplifting incidents down.

Hawke's Bay police had also set up a dedicated two-officer team who deal with shoplifting, and resulting follow-up inquiries and identification. Mr Miller said that during school holidays there was usually a spike in juveniles picked up, but that had not happened.

The "cops on the beat" approach also appeared to have kept shoplifting in Wairoa down.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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