GRPD gets creative on social media to find crooks

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids used social media to identify a “stud muffin” last week.

Grand Rapids police were looking for the person who stole money from a tip jar at a movie theater. The surveillance images they had showed the suspect wearing a shirt with the word “stud” over a picture of a muffin, so when they posted it on Facebook and Twitter, they captioned it, “Recognize this ‘stud muffin’?”

Someone did. The suspect hasn’t been arrested, but police now know his name.

It’s not the only time the Grand Rapids Police Department has turned to social media to solve a petty crime. Police say they can get the community engaged using Facebook and Twitter.

“People could look at pictures all day. When you can add a little bit of realism to it, maybe tie in a quote that people can relate to … it might draw their attention a little bit more,” GRPD Sgt. Cathy Williams told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

As an example, she pointed to a post with a photo of a man suspected of using a stolen credit card. Above his picture on the GRPD Facebook page was a quote from Harry Potter: “Enter, stranger, but take heed of what awaits the sin of greed.”

“Sometimes we’ll get a comment or two that says, ‘Love the quote,’ or, ‘Very witty.’ But we’ve noticed the suspect photos get the most response, the most engagement,” Williams said.

Police say they post the pictures after they’ve exhausted all internal efforts and need a little help from the public.

Williams said that many people point out how old the photos are.

“Ninety-nine percent of our suspect photos that we post on social media, there’s a time lag there, so often times the community will give us feedback and say, ‘Why’d you wait a month? Why did you wait three weeks to post this? We could have helped you solve this right away,'” she said.

She explained that lag happens because police have to work through their investigation first.

Police say posting photos of people of interest or adding witty lines isn’t about shaming the person in the photo: The sole goal is to hope the post sticks with the reader so they can identify that person.

But it also shows the more human side of law enforcement.

“We’re able to use that social media website, our platforms, as an opportunity to demonstrate to the community that we are just human,” Williams said.

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