I’m accustomed to seeing the home-design projects, gooey brownies and handmade wedding favors my friends pin on Pinterest, but I’ll admit I haven’t paid as much attention to the rapidly growing social network as I could. Until now, that is.
Police in Pottsdown, Pa. are putting Pinterest to civic-minded use, relying on the social platform to circulate galleries of offenders with outstanding warrants – from DUI to theft to assault – through households all over the nation. According to NPR’s Emma Jacobs, a crime reporter at The Mercury in Pottstown first had the idea to start a Pinterest gallery of mug shots of people wanted by the police; once launched, calls flooded the tip line almost immediately.
“We’ve actually seen a 57 percent increase in our warrant services, and we actually got more people based on our tips and our calls,” Pottstown Police Capt. F. Richard Drumheller told NPR, adding that some people had even called to say that they had seen their own mug shot online and asked how to turn themselves in to authorities.
The idea now appears to be spreading. According to NPR, police in Philadelphia are also using social media – including Pinterest – to gather tips that have led to arrests in a number of cases, including a man who killed an officer. Meanwhile, media types and law enforcers are beginning to catch on to Pinterest’s usefulness as both a news disseminator and a way to capture new audiences (mostly female).
But with law enforcement’s adoption of social media platforms also comes the risk of over-sharing sensitive information. Law enforcement social media consultant Lauri Stevens related to NPR one instance in Texas where people became upset when a prosecutor started tweeting the names of people arrested for DUIs on holidays. Despite these risks, Stevens still believes that Pinterest has a lot of potential as an aid to capturing an audience of 80% female users who are “heads of households, or at least the decision-makers running the family.”
What do you think of this use of Pinterest? How else could social media platforms potentially work for good? Share your best ideas.