Are Facebook photos of shoplifting suspects ‘shaming’ or deterrence?

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LEWISTON — The head of the local chamber of commerce said the rising number of shoplifting at local stores is troubling, and that the Auburn Police Department “is doing a good job” in taking new enforcement to reduce the crime.

Beckie Conrad, president of the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said she had no problem with the Auburn Police Department using social media to try to reduce the crime. Social media is a “major tool of communication,” she said.

If the Auburn Police Department posts weekly photos and information about shoplifting suspects on the department’s Facebook page to discourage shoplifting, it’s worth a try, Conrad said.

The Lewiston-Auburn community is proud that is it a safe community and works hard to demonstrate the crime rate is not as high as some perceive, Conrad said. A shoplifting crime surge will take the rate in the wrong direction, she said.

Commenters on the Auburn Police Department’s Facebook page both applauded and condemned the action.

A woman who identified herself as Alyssa Pelchat wrote that she is a social worker in corrections and was horrified by the shaming tactic. People shoplift because they have unmet needs and need help.

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“I expect better from the APD,” she wrote.

A man who identified himself as Mark C. Eisenbach said it would be more American to not post suspects’ names and faces until after they had been convicted.

Still another, identified as Eric Yoder, praised the idea, saying he has worked in corrections and loss prevention for a large retailer. Many who steal do not do it out of necessity, he wrote, adding that there are a variety of programs to help people with basic needs.

“Keep up the good work APD,” he wrote.

Auburn Deputy Chief Jason Moen said his department “fully understands we’re going to have the detractors. People saying, ‘You’re shaming people’ or ‘They have issues they need met,’” Moen said. “I’m sorry. They’re breaking the law.”

Police will try posting on Facebook to reduce the crime, because social media has become a big factor in everyday life, Moen said.

“The last thing anyone wants to be is in a bad light on social media,” he said. “It takes nothing to go viral. Our goal is to provide a deterrent.”

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