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Finding felons via Facebook; Hamburg police upload videos in bid to solve crimes

The woman wearing a magenta hoodie and jeans walks past a store display, a large purse over her shoulder, as she strolls out of the store.

Have you seen this woman?

She's on the Town of Hamburg Facebook page. Police believe she snatched three purses from unsuspecting customers at Walmart between April 11 and 14.

And police believe that by putting a video of her on Facebook, someone might see her and identify her.

"To me, a picture, especially a video, is worth more than a thousand words," said Capt. Kevin Trask, spokesman for the department.

Hamburg and other area police departments are starting to use social media to help them solve crimes. The purse snatchings aren't the crimes of the century, but they are the sort of crime that affects the quality of life of a community.

Facebook already has helped police apprehend a woman suspected of taking several hundred dollars worth of Red Bull and Pepsi from Wegmans.

"It's great. It's helped us a lot," Trask said.

Hamburg Town Police also are on Twitter, allowing them to issue quick, short blasts of information. When an item is placed on the police Facebook page, there is an automatic tweet about it, Trask said.

Another benefit to police is the ability to get information out straight to the public without the intermediary of a newspaper or broadcast station. Trask calls that getting the information out in context, "so people can refer to entire body of what we are trying to get across."

It's difficult to put out a description of a suspect in a crime like the purse snatchings, which occurred when victims left their purses unattended.

"Obviously, the victims did not see her," Trask said.

It is hoped that someone who recognizes the woman will call police. There have been several tips based on the video. It can be seen at the Town of Hamburg Facebook page.

"You want to be progressive and use all the tools at your disposal to help you solve crimes," Trask said. "I'm hoping the more followers we get, the exposure will be there and it will help us to solve cases."