Randolph County using social networking to deter crime

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RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- Social media is proving to be a good crime-fighting tool in places like Randolph County, where thousands of people are spreading information about crimes like break-ins, scammers and thefts.

The Facebook page Randolph County NC Crime Alerts launched last year but has more than 7,700 members, which equals about 14 percent of adults in the county.

“It's really just a gigantic community watch page that's really just watching out for the entire county,” said Emily Banks, an administrator for the page.

Because of the popularity of the site, five administrators split the duties of filtering what gets posted and what comments get deleted.

“Our members are so involved and so active that it makes the community extra aware of what's going on and we're extremely proud of it and extremely proud to be able to help our neighbors,” said Banks.

Banks said pictures from home surveillance cameras help warn neighborhoods across the large county about thefts and threats people might not otherwise hear about.

“It takes us as citizens to identify a lot of the crime that is going on,” said Eric Hicks, who had the idea for the page.

Hicks said he wouldn’t classify the page as vigilante justice. He said reporting crime to law enforcement to help catch a criminal is just as important as spreading the information that could help others from being a victim of crime.

“We just stress the more information we can receive and disseminate to the public the better off we all are,” said Hicks.

The group also spreads information about missing persons in the area and solicitors in neighborhoods that seem suspicious.

“We're not trying to discriminate against you for being in our neighborhood but at the same time if you have no business here why are you here?” asked Hicks.

Banks said there’s nothing to compare the site to because no other outlet can focus on Randolph County as a whole.

“It's helping catch criminals, it’s helping people stay safe, it's helping them feel safe and it's bringing a community together, honestly,” said Banks.