Courtesy of Facebook

Social Media Helps Track Down Stolen Items from Lewiston

"We were up over 1,200 shares in less than 30 minutes."

August 15, 2019 - 10:46 pm

LEWISTON (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - Today's vitriolic, and at times, downright depressing social media climate can be overwhelming.

However, an incident that took place in Lewiston over the last week or so shows that social media, when used effectively, can be used for positive things as well - in this case, the recovery of stolen goods.

John Howlett is the general manager for Anchor Marine and Greater Lakes EZ Dock in Grand Island; he says one of his long time customers purchased two SeaDoos about 15 years ago, and the customer stored the items at his home in Lewiston.

"He reached out to me to tell me that they had been stolen, and he sent me a picture of the two units on a trailer," said Howlett.

After reaching out to various law enforcement agencies, including the Erie County Sheriff's Office, Howlett decided to put the photo of the SeaDoos online in the hopes that someone may have come across them.

"I put this out on my Facebook page, and shortly after that, another friend of mine, who was also a retired police officer like me, called me and said, 'Hey, I know this guy who owns these SeaDoos; I'm going to put this out on my page, and my son's going to put it out too,'" Howlett began. "Well, between the Anchor Marine Facebook page, his page, his son's page and my personal page, we were up over 1,200 shares in less than 30 minutes."

As one could probably surmise where this story is heading, all it took was one person to help identify the SeaDoos and snap a photo of the license plate of the car that was towing them.

"Within 24 hours, they were able to follow up on the plate number," he said. "They staked out the house, and shortly after midnight the following day, Lewiston Police along with Buffalo Police raided the house and recovered the two stolen SeaDoos, and they made an arrest of the individual."

Listen to the full conversation with Howlett below:

Scott Zylka is with the Erie County Sheriff's Office, and he explained that social media is certainly being utilized by more and more law enforcement agencies in a concerted fashion.

"We've solved hit-and-run cases through it; we've solved assaults, and we've solved burglaries using social media platforms, and it's a great tool," said Zylka. "Every time that we get a phone call, it gets us that much closer to solving a case, solving an incident, arresting a subject...we haven't put numbers to it, but I can tell you that it has been very successful, and we will continue to use it. You are seeing the growth of this use within the law enforcement community."

Listen to the full conversation with Zylka below:

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