Businesses turn to social media to catch and shame thieves
THE power of social media has been harnessed by business owners sharing alleged offenders' faces across their platforms.
The method can attract hundreds of views in a bid to track down the culprits of crime.
Throughout a busy holiday period several Yamba businesses have fallen victim to thieves and hit back by posting CCTV footage for hundreds to see.
Last Saturday, Countrystyle Surf owner Barry Jones took to Facebook on police advice following a theft at his Yamba store. The post of a CCTV image of a woman asked people to contact police if they recognised her.
It has been shared more than 600 times. Although the culprit has not been found, Mr Jones said it was a sobering reminder to others about the consequences of walking out without paying.
"People turn around and criticise us but if they're game enough to come in and steal it should be open slather," he said.
"Some people are saying it's a great thing you did well, and others will say we're mongrels."
Despite mixed reaction, Mr Jones said the public humiliation of having one's face spread across social media acted as a deterrent.
"It just puts it out there to make people aware. As much as we hate to do it … if we catch someone red-handed and give them a slap on the wrist, they just walk away and think they got away with it," he said.
A narrated CCTV video of a woman stealing from Beachside Bargains Yamba was posted to the store's Facebook page last month, calling on the community to help identify the person. The post has since been removed after the offender returned to the store.
"Once she saw the photo and video evidence, she chose to pay for the item rather than involving the police... She was from out of town holidaying here," the post read.
" Thank you to our wonderful customers... To our fellow shop owners, keep your eyes open."
Coffs Clarence Police District Chief Inspector Jo Reid said business owners should always report any incidents to police as the first step. She said business owners would be encouraged to post to social media as it is the "easiest" platform to send and receive information, but strict rules had to be followed throughout an investigation.
"The risk in using social media and not reporting crime to police until after the fact, is that any evidence obtained from social media may be inadmissable in court," Inspector Reid said.
"Police will often use social media as part of their investigations, and it can be an extremely effective tool. However its use is governed by policies to ensure information is used lawfully."
Inspector Reid said it was important to control information coming in and that posts were removed as soon as an offender was identified.
She said social media was "purely about getting information to identify offenders" and didn't endorse it as a deterrent.