The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office said its Facebook page helped identify at least a half dozen suspects over the last few months and has become a key tool in cracking some harder-to-solve cases since its inception about one year ago.

The most recent case cracked with the help of the Facebook page, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, was the March 13 arrest of a Palmyra woman who allegedly stole a wallet from an elderly woman’s grocery cart at an IGA in Hartland, according to a press release Thursday from Chief Deputy James Ross of the sheriff’s office.

“The Facebook page has led to the identification of at least a half dozen suspects over the course of the last few months in cases that had pictures of the suspect but no leads on the person’s identity,” Ross said. “The Facebook page has proved to be an excellent tool in communicating with the public and has allowed public participation in some of these harder to solve cases.”

The page was started in May and since then has gained more than 2,500 followers. It was started as a way to better communicate with the public and assist deputies in doing their job, according to Detective Mike Ross of the sheriff’s office. The county is also among several local law enforcement agencies, including the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Oakland, Skowhegan and Waterville, to add Facebook pages in recent years.

Joyce Harrington, 55, of Palmyra, was arrested March 13 in the Hartland theft case after the sheriff’s office posted images taken from the store’s video surveillance camera showing Harrington grabbing the wallet from the cart, talking to a man and then getting in a vehicle.

The post was shared more than 300 times and viewed by more than 25,000 people and brought in tips that led detectives to Harrington, according to Chief Deputy James Ross. The police were also able to identify the man she was with, but the sheriff’s office is still determining whether he will face charges.

“It has been my experience that the public truly wants to help law enforcement, and this Facebook page has been a venue to do exactly that while allowing the public to stay anonymous,” James Ross said.

Although people are sharing their identities with the sheriff’s office and others when they share or comment on a post, they also have the ability to send a private message to the sheriff’s office through the page.

The sheriff’s office can also delete or hide posts to preserve anonymity or protect information, said Mike Ross. “From our perspective, this is actually a much better way to get information, because with just a little bit of research, we are able to verify the information that the person is providing and can take the appropriate action,” he said.

As part of its Facebook campaign, the sheriff’s office has also started a regular Whodunnit Wednesday post that they use to share photos of crimes in progress or clips from video surveillance.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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