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EPD Catches Suspects Using Facebook

EUGENE, Ore. — Eugene police this weekend cracked the case of several thefts at an apartment complex near the University of Oregon campus.

How investigators tracked down the suspects was pretty unconventional.

EPD says Facebook was one of the key factors in finding the two suspects in Friday’s robberies. Yet while they say social media can help in an investigation, they say it can just as easily hurt one, too.

Most Skybox Apartment tenants are University of Oregon students, and so is Heather Hamilton, one of the suspects in Friday’s burglaries. So detectives and victims decided to post surveillance photos from the crime scenes to a victim’s Facebook page, hoping one the thousands of Ducks online might make a connection.

“People are apt to know each other, and so because of that, she (the victim) posted on Facebook and people saw, and friends of friends eventually came up with enough tips to lead police to the suspects,” said Melinda McLaughlin, Eugene Police Department Public Information Officer.

The social media strategy worked, this time. However, McLaughlin says the internet can do the complete opposite in some investigations.

“There can be cases where only the victim, suspect and detectives know the information, so there can be false confessions, there can be information put out there that’s actually damaging in trying to get a suspect and then eventually to try and get a successful prosecution,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin says the best way to know if your post could help or hurt is to always ask first.

“You can blow a case by putting something out there prematurely before detectives have had a chance to do their work,” McLaughlin said.

Police arrested Hamilton and her 17-year-old accomplice for burglary and conspiracy.

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