Facebook tips lead Beaufort police to shoplifting suspect

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 24, 2012 

  • Get breaking news and story updates about crime, courts and emergency services in northern Beaufort County by following Protect and Serve on Twitter.

Tips generated by social networking site Facebook led to the arrest Friday of a shoplifting suspect who eluded Beaufort police investigators for nearly a month.

The 22-year-old Beaufort woman was wanted by investigators after she and another woman allegedly stole a $35 pair of high-heeled shoes Jan. 28 from the Shoe Department at the Cross Creek Shopping Center, Investigator George Erdel said.

An employee called police to the store and directed officers to a vehicle where the stolen merchandise was left out in plain sight, according to Erdel.

Neither woman returned to the car, but investigators identified the suspects using DMV records, Erdel said.

One of the women turned herself in last week, and when investigators tried to persuade the other suspect to do the same, she began avoiding them, he said.

The woman's picture was posted this week on the department's Facebook page, prompting someone who knew her to contact authorities, Erdel said.

"(We) received a telephone tip from an anonymous person who said that they saw (the suspect's) photo on Facebook and gave us a very detailed description of the car she was driving and where she was doing," Erdel said. "We relayed that information to patrol officers who were able to locate and arrest her based on that information."

The woman was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting.

The arrest is the latest success story in Beaufort police's use of Facebook and Twitter to locate suspects, solve crimes and connect with the community.

About a year ago, officers began using Facebook to interact with Beaufort-area residents. Officers have since cultivated an online following that has led to tips and arrests, Police Chief Matt Clancy said.

Each day, the department posts short updates about recent arrests, trends in local crime, and photos of wanted suspects, as well as of officers on and off duty.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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