FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Police in the area said Wednesday that more tips on crimes have been coming in recently, and the help is leading to more arrests.
Late Tuesday night, police arrested Jamel Coleman, 22, who they believe is responsible for killing Antonio Lopez Nino last week inside the Smoke House Tobacco Outlet. Police said tips from the public, including Coleman’s family, helped lead to the arrest.
“There are really two things you need for an effective arrest,” Michael Joyner, a spokesperson for the Fort Wayne Police Department, said. “One, is you have to have physical evidence. The other is information that’s provided through the public and through tips. In this particular arrest, we received credible information through Crime Stoppers.”
Joyner said more tips have come in to his office this year.
“I think the community saw through the Gang and Violent Crime Unit and the partnership with other law enforcement agencies and what took place last year,” Joyner said, referring to Allen County’s 2013 homicide total of 45, which set a new record for the county. “People won’t stand for it. They’ve stepped up and are providing us with information that wasn’t readily available for us last year and it has made an incredible difference.”
Joyner added that more tips aren’t only coming in through Crime Stoppers, but more information is also being gathered at crime scenes. In the past, witnesses have been concerned about their safety if they were to help police.
“There’s always this belief that this incredible Hollywood drama that if I should provide information I’m going to be identified and some type of retaliatory attack on me will happen,” Joyner said. “Hollywood does that, in reality, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
Another big help for FWPD is new equipment that the department last August.
That’s when the department purchased equipment that allows police to use businesses surveillance video more quickly. Joyner said his department’s new equipment work with any business’ surveillance equipment, which allows police to post pictures to the public= of suspects and vehicles.
Social media a success for two area sheriff’s departments
For LaGrange and Steuben Counties, the sheriff’s departments there have heavily relied on Facebook, and other social media, to ask for the public’s help in finding criminals, and the public has responded tremendously.
“The ones we’ve posted have led us to successful apprehensions for pretty much every one of them,” Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer said. Police like how social media works because their message can quickly reach the masses. “I have actually seen some of the postings for wanted people, especially some of the sex offenders who have hid, over 110,000 people have seen those in just a few hours.”
Troyer’s office has gotten tips from Facebook that led to arrests. On Monday, the department asked through Facebook for help in finding a registered sex offender who violated his probation. The following day, the man was found. Also, earlier this month, a man robbed a bank in Angola. Police once again went to Facebook for help. He was found a few days later in Colorado.
“Social media is a very successful crime-fighting tool,” Troyer said. “With the bank robbery, we started seeing tips come in quick. Tips about his vehicle and his picture, just within moments of posting it.”
LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin told NewsChannel 15 that more than half of the Facebook posts his department has made asking for the public’s help has led to an arrest.
“The response we’ve gotten from the public, when we put somebody out there we’re looking for, has been amazing,” Martin said. “We’ve gotten people picked up within an hour of putting it out there. Some have taken longer, depending on where they’re at and where they’re running to, but we’ve picked up people from Ohio and Illinois off this, so it’s far reaching.”
Troyer said the one drawback to social media that he’s seen is that some people will use Facebook to tell police about crimes while the crime is taking place. He said people should still report those crimes by calling 911 because it monitored all the time.