By Stan Welch
The increasing role that social media – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. – play in law enforcement was made very clear by a local incident concerning the burglary of local businessman Jimmy Ellison’s commercial automotive garage recently.
Ellison’s garage was burglarized and a number of tools stolen on March 25. Not long after, Town Councilman Rockey Burgess, an active Facebook user, posted the news of the crime. In fairly short time, he had received information identifying the thief as George Osbourne Stack, WM, 39 years of age. Burgess provided the information to the Williamston Police Department, but the information was insufficient to obtain warrants.
While the WPD worked to improve their case, Burgess continued to post information on Facebook, and people continued to respond. A vehicle associated with the burglary, and bearing very distinct markings, was located and identified at Stack’s residence. Nearly seven thousand facebook users viewed Burgess’ posts, and almost two hundred people shared the posts on their accounts, spreading the information far and wide.
Remarkably, Stack went to Burgess’ account and ‘liked’ the post, one of several ways that such a post can be acknowledged and responded to. After Stack fled his residence in a different vehicle, belonging to his wife, she drove the suspect vehicle to the WPD to make it available for processing forensically. She and Stack had recently reconciled and she had no knowledge of his recent activities.
WPD was able to secure warrants for Stack’s arrest and he was apprehended by an ACSO deputy in the Belton area in short order. He was charged with second degree burglary and grand larceny. He was transported to the Anderson County Detention Center and booked. He subsequently made bond and was released.
WPD Captain Kevin Marsee posted notice of Stack’s arrest on the Department’s Facebook page, thanking everyone for their tips and assistance.
Burgess, speaking in an interview with The Journal, said that this experience makes it very clear what a huge role social media can and does play in expanding law enforcement’s presence and ability to both share and receive information that can be used in solving crimes. “As more and more people become active on the various social media platforms, the result is literally millions of eyes out there that can be harnessed to assist law enforcement. The level of response to this situation, in a small town like Williamston, shows just how amazing and effective the social media presence can be.”
By Stan Welch