Facebook and Crime

Mountains-Peace

Facebook, Crime and West Virginia

Having been in the criminal justice system for close to 50 years, I find fascination with offbeat aspects of crime and justice in America. With the current contentious political debate raging over crime and solutions, I would like to offer a “lesser” example of effective crime control.

I lived in crime-ridden Baltimore and worked in Washington, D.C., no stranger to crime related issues. Upon retirement from being a spokesperson for a federal criminal justice agency, we moved to a 3,000-foot mountain on the Maryland-West Virginia line in a community named Alpine Lake.

Appalachia has its fair share of income inequity and drug use, but crime is rare and violent crime (especially stranger to stranger violent crime) is almost nonexistent. The beauty of the mountains is breathtaking. The people are polite and welcoming. We like it here.

But this is a tale about Facebook and crime control so here’s the short story.

A friend had three kayaks stolen from a nearby lake. She’s well connected to the Facebook world as everyone up here is. Whether it’s a family in need, an upcoming event, a political opinion or a request for assistance, it circulates quickly on Facebook. It’s like a giant, instantaneous town meeting.

So she sends a photo and description of the missing kayaks (along with a photo of her daughters and son with their missing boats) and appeals to the interconnected world of Facebook. Note that up here, kayaks, 4×4’s and pickup trucks are held in high esteem, something not to be trifled with.

Boom! There were well over 300 shares and dozens of comments. Considering that every person you ever encountered is on your Facebook page (500 to 1,000 friends here is not uncommon), 300 + shares means that you are communicating with most of the people in the area. That plus the photo of her daughters and son and their missing kayaks is internalized by people who naturally form mutual, unwritten pacts with each other because that’s what you do when you live in the mountains.

You can have endless thousands of murders of young men in cities and no one seems to care yet steal a kayak from children in West Virginia and all hell breaks lose.

The network went to work and within 24 hours, the kayaks were located and the perpetrators identified. I don’t have the details but their own family members dealt with the offenders.

Facebook is many things to many people but where communities traditionally rely upon each other for support, Facebook is a mainstay of communication. There are successful businesses here that advertise solely through Facebook and local newspspers. When devastating floods hit the southern part of the state recently, we rallied through Facebook.

So watch out criminals, Facebook knows who you are and what you’re doing, and this community will share information and hunt you down all without the involvement of the criminal justice system. We will shame you and your family to the point that you will keep this in mind for your next potential misdeed.

Nope, It’s not perfect up here. We have our problems. But difficulties and solutions pale in comparison to what we left behind, which is why we choose to live here.

Facebook took a nurturing culture and transformed it into a force to be reckoned with.

Almost heaven, Facebook.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com. Media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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