Dungannon police start Facebook campaign to hunt suspects

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Dungannon police have embraced a new crimefighting tool in a bid to hunt down criminals who have evaded justice.

Local officers have started using social media to reveal mugshots and CCTV images of suspects as part of its new Operation Exposure initiative.

On Monday, police shared an image of a young man wanted in connection with a theft in Coalisland.

The grainy CCTV image shows the individual filling a fuel can from a petrol station pump.

According to police, the theft occurred on April 19.

This is the first time that local police have used social media to identify a suspect

Through Op Exposure police publish photographs on the Dungannon PSNI Facebook page of people they want to speak to in relation to various matters and ask locals to help identify them.

Police have reaped the rewards of the social media campaign in other parts of Northern Ireland, with members of the public helping police identify suspects.

However, concern has been raised in some quarters about the release of these images, particularly those of young people, but they are only used within a set of stringent guidelines and authorised by the District Commander.

These guidelines include – the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of suspects, encouraging victims to come forward, discouraging offenders, reassuring and informing the public and re-enforcing confidence in the criminal justice system.

All other methods of identification must also have been attempted and failed before a photo is used. Each photo is only posted for 24 hours before being deleted and anyone who recognises the person can contact the sergeant monitoring it through a mobile number which is displayed. Comments on Facebook naming the person are not permitted.

Chief Inspector Roy Robinson explains: “You will see images of people appear on our local PSNI Facebook pages over the coming weeks who we would like to speak to in relation to various matters.

“If you know who these individuals are please do not post on our social media but contact us directly by phoning 101 and quoting the reference provided.

“The community response in other policing Districts has been really positive around this initiative and we are confident that the public in Mid Ulster and beyond will support us in our efforts to solve crime, give victims justice, and keep people safe.”