CULLMAN COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - How do you catch a crook in Cullman County? Well, according to Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry, all you need is a camera and social media.
Gentry says when they are able to post a photo of a suspect on social media, they are 95% likely to put the person behind bars.
"In the last few years we have realized that social media is a good tool for law enforcement," says Gentry. "It's like anything else, it is a necessary evil. But our sheriff's office here, our Facebook page, we have over 16,000 followers and we use it to get out information. Ranging from a crime that has happened, or if we are having training or citizen's academy something we are doing with our community events."
Gentry says once they post photos or videos to social media they get a lot of reaction from within the community.
"We had one story that we posted, we had pictures of some suspects and by the end of it, within 24 hours, we had 100,000 people that had viewed those suspects and identified them and we were able to make an arrest," says Gentry.
Gentry says if you do not have a security system, the likelihood of of solving the crime goes down.
"You know it goes down unless we have other information like a witness," says Gentry. "One of the things we try to do is canvas the neighbors, see if they have vehicles that come in and out but the likelihood of solving that crime drastically increases when you have a camera or surveillance system."
Gentry says if you do not have a surveillance system, it is hard to proceed with the case.
"It is hard. At that time you start trying to figure out, one of the things we look at is who has been released from prison recently in our neighborhoods. We work with our probate officers and see who is getting released but it is a hard way to track people down using that method," Gentry says.
The Cullman County Sheriff's office partners with Crimestoppers in Birmingham and Gentry says that is a big help.
"One of the cases, we recovered some video here on a burglary, got with Crimestoppers out of Birmingham, they were able to post and within 24 hours got leads on who the suspects were," Gentry adds.
The sheriff adds that there are several ways you can protect yourself.
"Just number one, you have to protect yourself. Number two, surveillance systems now are very, very inexpensive.," says Gentry. "You can use almost any type of method, whether it is online, or stores, purchase your own cameras. You can use iCloud to store your video for a certain amount of days and use that and it will alert you when your cameras go off."
Gentry says you do not have to go out and buy a nice, expensive camera. He says living in a rural place like Cullman County, where there is a lot of farm land, you may have a hunting camera that will be just as beneficial.
"One of the things we recommend to people is to put up camera, whether it is a what I call a deer camera that you would use for deer hunting, just a simple picture that we can get out."
Gentry says if you recognize someone in a photo on their Facebook page, it is very easy and confidential to alert authorities to the person's identity.
"We usually get it through private messenger or they will call the investigator directly.," says Gentry. "A lot of times we will have a specific investigator handle the case and they will call them directly."
If you would like to take a look at the sheriff's page to see examples of the photos and videos Gentry is talking about, click here.