When the Puyallup Police Department’s Major Crimes and Special Investigations units arrested a 32-year-old suspect in an alleged sexual assault last week, officers used social media to follow leads and quickly investigate.
They considered it a change in how they seek information.
“The crux of solving the case came from our witnesses,” Det. Ken Lewis said. “Our suspect was positively identified. We had the opportunity to use social media. I created still shots from the video of the suspect and posted the frames on Facebook. Within the first couple hours, we already received three tips that had the same like name of the suspect.”
The call came in at 10:20 p.m. July 9. A 22-year-old woman allegedly was sexually assaulted in a secluded neighborhood behind the Walmart in the 2900 block of 5th Street Southeast. She fought off her attacker and went to the store for help, according to the police report.
At 8:51 a.m. the following morning, officers posted to Facebook and Twitter, describing the case and the description of the suspect.
“Two-hundred and twenty-six people saw the Facebook post,” Lewis said.
At 11:29 a.m., Lewis posted the still video images of the suspect on social media sites that were taken at Walmart. By 8 p.m. that evening — less than 24 hours after the incident — officers arrested a suspect.
“Within two hours, we received multiple tipsters identifying our suspect,” Lewis said.
Capt. Ryan Portmann said the Puyallup Police Department can post a image within five to six minutes of receiving it.
“We’re starting to see that success with Twitter,” Portmann said. “Getting the image out there will lead these cases to be solved in a more expedited fashion. (Twitter and Facebook) is good for suspect identification and public notification.”
Portmann said the department uses social media regularly to find missing persons and to arrest those suspected of hit-and-run or sexual assault.
The Puyallup Police Department had 1,632 followers on Twitter and 839 likes on Facebook last week.
“Our Twitter page went live Sept. 6, 2012, and our Facebook page went live Feb. 28, 2013,” Portmann said. “We’re averaging six new likes a day on our Facebook page.”
Lewis said the public should continue to check the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages on a regular basis.
“The more followers we have, the more opportunity we have to get the message out to the people,” he said. “This is a new tool for police departments. We’re trying to utilize it whenever we can. It’s proven to be successful. Look for more of this (social media) activity in the future.”
The suspect in last week’s alleged sexual assault was booked into the Pierce County Jail for indecent liberties by forceable compulsion. At press time, his arraignment was pending.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.