Biz Beat: Modesto area businesses use social media to catch thieves

July 17, 2013 

Modesto area business owners are posting photos of shoplifters on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to combat crime. This picture of a theft suspect was taken from surveillance footage earlier this year at the Ritzy Ragz store on McHenry Avenue in Modesto.

MODESTO POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Patty Guerra
    Title: Breaking news editor
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, business
    Bio: Patty Guerra has been an editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 13 years. She has a journalism degree from Fresno State and previously worked at the Turlock Journal and Merced Sun-Star.
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— Social media is a great way to connect — of course — socially. But several local businesses are also taking to social media sites to combat a problem that has been around for generations — theft.

In recent months I have noticed a few business owners posting photos of shoplifters and the like on places such as Facebook and Twitter. Haven't seen any on Instagram yet but they could be there — I'm not that great at using Instagram.

Jen Kabala Horn, who owns Ritzy Ragz in Modesto, Turlock and Carmel, said posting such photos has led to the arrests of three people who have stolen items from the Modesto location.

"I don't like our Facebook page being negative," Horn said — more often, Ritzy Ragz's posts showcase new outfits or furniture offerings in the store. "On the other hand, we're a small business and we can't afford to keep having this stuff happen."

Another Modesto business manager told me posting a photo on her personal Facebook page of a guy who stole her company's surveillance camera led to his identification. This manager didn't want me to use her name as he hadn't yet been picked up and she didn't want to face retaliation.

"I think proactively as a community that we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to help law enforcement make arrests," she said.

Both women agreed it's a way to get more eyes on the people who are doing this. And, Horn added, it might dissuade someone else from trying to steal.

For the most part, police — who often use social media to spread the word themselves — are in favor of the idea.

"It seems to be the way of the future when it comes to sharing information," Sgt. Rick Applegate of the Modesto Police Department said in an email. He cautioned the sometimes sharing information or photos can impede an investigation. "I ask that before someone puts information out there about an open case that they first check with the investigator," he said, though he added, "For the most part I think social media can be helpful."

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a story about Dollar General coming into the sites formerly occupied by Sam's Food City in Modesto, Turlock and Livingston. I noticed while on vacation that Dollar General also is taking over a site in Gustine — the former Diamond Foods along Highway 33 on the southern edge of town.

Have an item for Business Beat? Contact Patty Guerra at The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352; (209) 578-2343; or pguerra@modbee.com.

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