Far North Police use Facebook to fight crime

By Kristin Edge

One Northland policewoman is leading the way in using social media to help fight crime.

Newly appointed officer in charge of New Zealand's most northern station, Houhora Senior Constable Tracee Knowler has created a Facebook page and has generated an international stir with her online posts.

Security camera pictures of a man exposing his "builder's crack" during a theft went viral with over 64,000 people from over 18 countries and speaking eight different languages viewing the story.

Late on Christmas Eve the Houhora Liquor Centre was broken into and boxes of alcohol stolen.

Ms Knowler appealed for help: "He is - male, very large and with a 'crack' any decent chippie would be proud of."

A major national airline picked up on the photos and claimed "even the Buttcrack Bandit would think they were a steal", when referring to their cheap deals.

Since then the officer has alerted her online followers to the theft of several kilos of garlic that had just put set out to dry at a Huketere property.

Security photos of people ripping copper guttering off Kaitaia Primary School have also appeared with an appeal to the public to help identify the male and a female shown.

Ms Knowler said she was always keen for information on local cannabis growers and drug users and manufacturers. She is delighted with public response.

"Certainly the Far North community has thrown themselves into the Facebook option as a way of communicating with me," she said. "When it comes to local knowledge and finger on the pulse, local people are my greatest asset."

The Houhora police area runs from just north of Waipapakauri to North Cape where cellphone coverage is very poor, but most people have internet access.

"It is fast becoming a great tool in the crime prevention toolbox. The community have also stepped up and are taking ownership."

Houhora is the only station in Northland that has a Facebook page although there are plans to create more in the region.

Chief Media Adviser for the New Zealand police Grant Ogilvie said the rules around police posting wanted pictures via social media was the same as an other form of publication.

Approximately 85 per cent of the New Zealand population is online and about a quarter of online activity is social media.

- Northern Advocate

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