A Fun Way To Stop Crime Online
A small town in northeast Ohio, is going on social media to stop crimes.
If someone commits a crime, you're risking not only jail time or a fine but a swifter repercussion with a much larger audience: You're in for a social media scolding from police Chief David Oliver and some of his small department's 51,000 Facebook fans.
And Oliver does not mince words.
In postings interspersed with community messages and rants, the chief takes to task criminals and other ne'er-do-wells — his preferred term is "mopes," appropriated from police TV shows and an old colleague who used it — for the stupid, the lazy and the outright unlawful. Even an ill-considered parking choice can spur a Facebook flogging.
"If you use a handicapped space and you jump out of the vehicle, all healthy-like, as if someone is dangling free cheeseburgers on a stick, expect people to stare at you and get angry," Oliver wrote last year. "You are milking the system and it aggravates those of us who play by the rules. Ignoring us does not make you invisible. We see you, loser."
His humor, sarcasm and blunt opinion fueled a tenfold increase in the Facebook page's likes in the past year, bringing the total to more than four times the 10,300 residents the department serves. It's among the most-liked local law enforcement pages in the country, trailing only New York, Boston and Philadelphia police, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media.
The chief loves justice, Westerns and dogs. John Wayne and Abraham Lincoln peer out from frames on the gray walls of Oliver's office, where the 45-year-old chats with anyone who stops by.
His Facebook messages extend that open-door policy online for conversations about road closures, charity events, lost pets and whatever else crosses his mind. Some are serious, such as salutes to slain officers and updates during school threat investigations. Others are light-hearted, like the attempt to find an escaped swine's owner with an unusual APB — an "All-Pig Bulletin" — or his promise to "ticket" child bicyclists with coupons for free ice cream if they wear helmets.
Here are a sample of some of his postings: (pick a couple of the funniest ones)
Facebook posting, May 16, 2013: "I call criminals mopes. I do not comment on them being ugly, smelly or otherwise beauty impaired ... even though some are. I do not comment on their education, social status, color, sex, origin or who they marry. I care about crime and character. If you come to Brimfield and commit a crime we are all going to talk about it. The easiest way to not be called a criminal is to not be one. It is not calculus."
One posting berates a man accused of physically assaulting a woman and two children. In another, Oliver suggests that hiding near an occupied police K-9 vehicle wasn't a shoplifting suspect's smartest move.
July 31, 2012: "Dear Father or Mother Meth Cooks,
"You have lost your mind. What in hell are you thinking when you make the decision to cook meth with your child in the house? You have violated the very basic principle of being a parent, which is the safety of your child. I am fed up with watching it and also with being concerned with the long-term effects of what you have exposed YOUR child to."
The word is out even among mopes, a few of whom have told Oliver they read his updates. During a March traffic stop with several drug-related arrests, one suspect overheard Oliver being called "Chief" and, after connecting the dots, requested not to be mentioned on the page, police said. Oliver didn't oblige.
Jan. 28, 2013: "It is the opinion of this chief, located in a small corner of a great big world, that we need to, as a society, become a little more intolerant of people who commit crimes for a living. When we start yelling about it being unacceptable ... people will take notice and the practice will shift; either by putting people in jail, funding drug treatment or behavioral changes by the criminals."