Is Pinterest The Future Of Law Enforcement?

Cops use platform to track down owners of stolen property

PinterestRedwood City Police Department's "recovered property" board on Pinterest.

Police officers have a new ally in the realm of law enforcement: social media. Specifically, Pinterest. That's right--the site known for wedding wishlists and recipes for blueberry cake pops has proven itself to be a valuable crime-fighting instrument.

As NPR reports, the police department in Redwood City, California has had repeated instances of success using the platform to reunite the owners of stolen goods with their lost property. Last February, Detective Dave Stahler turned to Pinterest to track down the owner of a unique keepsake discovered in a bag of stolen jewelry, and received tips from three users within hours of posting a pin.

That's not the only thing the site's good for, from a law enforcement perspective. Police in Richmond, Virginia have used Pinterest as a resource in unsolved murder cases, while arrest rates for theft, fraud and sexual assault have jumped 57 percent in one Pennsylvania town after a local newspaper created a Pinterest board for criminals' mug shots.

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"It's a way for us to reach people who wouldn't have gotten our messages before, people who maybe don't interact with traditional media," Kansas City police spokesperson Sarah Boyd told

Nevertheless, it might be some time before we start seeing police departments hire Twitter detectives (attn. True Detective writing staff, that idea's on the house). For one thing, MySpace is still more widely utilized by police departments than Pinterest or Instagram, although that might have as much to do with the creepiness of MySpace's user base as it does with law enforcers thinking it's still 2002.

And then there are the times when attempts at social media outreach backfire in spectacular fashion, as when the NYPD's #myNYPD campaign resulted in thousands of Twitter users posting images of police brutality.

"It's really all over the map still," Connected Cops' Lauri Stevens told NPR. "There are a great many of them that are just coming along."

But for every #myNPYD debacle, there are a handful of successes like Stahler's--or other ones on platforms like YouTube and Google Hangouts, where Toronto law enforcement officials have begun live-streaming their news conferences. While it's clear that social media-as-law enforcement tool is an idea that's still in its infancy--as well as one that has some potentially scary applications (does a Tweet count as evidence?)--there's something to be said for training officers in social media proficiency, if only because those "recovered property" Pinterest boards are so darn cute.

"It's really important that these professionals learn how ... to use the ease of access to information to their own benefit also, or they're going to get run over," said Stevens.

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May 07 2014 at 12:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

oh look, more new sh^t that most people don't understand
lovely : \

May 07 2014 at 4:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This just proves there are no real criminal geniuses.

May 06 2014 at 8:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This has got to be the dumbest thing anyone has ever written about.

May 06 2014 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeremiah's comment

That's the dumbest thing I ever heard this week.

May 06 2014 at 10:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Did they say MySpace is utilized more..............

May 06 2014 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Anyone who uses ANY of the social media sites deserves what happens to them when others find out what they've been up to..... whether its the cops, your boss, your significant other or some hacker.... anyone dumb enough to use one of the social media sites is just begging for identity theft and numerous other personal catastrophes.

May 06 2014 at 2:39 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe a better headline would have been Police helping victims on Pinterest.

May 06 2014 at 2:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


May 06 2014 at 1:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This would be a great idea for airlines. Instead of selling things that have been "lost" (by the airline itself, although they try to make it look as if passengers leave the majority of these items behind), why not try to find the rightful owners? Especially since most of the lost items are due to bad baggage processing on the part of the airline.

May 06 2014 at 12:46 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Not much to comment on here...dumb people tell on themselves a thousand ways already.

May 06 2014 at 11:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rrkutulu's comment

Don't you just love it when these dummies post their violent attacks or robbery videos on the internet and get caught.

May 06 2014 at 12:13 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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