Smyrna PD adds ‘Wanted Wednesday’ feature to online site

SMYRNA — For now, Smyrna Police Department is putting the spotlight on one fugitive a week.

Moving forward, however, the Wanted Wednesday feature will expand its online and social media information release to list more persons wanted on arrest warrants, and include their photos if available.

“We are building up our database and will likely include more listings in the coming weeks,” said Smyrna Police Cpl. Brandon Dunning, the public information officer who proposed the idea after studying similar programs at other agencies.

Currently, Smyrna PD has 33 active warrants seeking individuals on an assortment of burglary, assault, forgery, identification theft, terroristic threatening, offensive touching and theft of rental property issues.

14dsn Smyrna Wanted Wednesday1If the public can help locate the fugitives identified in Wanted Wednesday by providing tips, the program will be working.

“The goal or purpose of it is to engage the public and citizens to help clean up our town and streets,” Cpl. Dunning said.

Besides legal obligations fugitives have to address, ignoring warrants can bring further criminal actions endangering the community, police said.

“People that commit crimes are potentially habitual offenders,” Cpl. Dunning said. “If we can get them off the streets it decreases the possibility of them committing crimes in the future.”

The first two Wanted Wednesday posts produced immediate tips, Cpl. Dunning said. Information was arriving Wednesday within the first hour of a release on a man wanted in connection with an alleged residential burglary on April 26 at 9 East Commerce St., police said.

The debut release on May 6 notified the public of a man sought for harassment and breach of release issues during an alleged incident on Nov. 9, 2014, at Ramunno Drive.

Police said a fugitive’s legal status should be determined by a court.

“Every wanted person is considered innocent until proven guilty,” Cpl. Dunning said. “They are accused of a crime, not convicted of one.”

Police are capitalizing on society’s use of online and social media as a mainstream form of communication.

“As a vast majority of people have some form of social media on their phones we can get information out to a lot of people in a short amount of time,” Chief Norman Wood said.

“It has helped us identify people in a bank robbery, burglaries and other crimes so we figured it would be a good tool to use.”

Anonymous tips can be left through smyrnapolice.org online, messaged through Facebook, called in anonymously to 653-9217 or emailed to brandon.dunning@cj.state.de.us.

Cpl. Dunning researched options regarding the fugitive feature and presented his findings to Chief Wood and Criminal and Special Investigations Units head Lt. Torrie James, who liked what they saw.

With credible tips, Smyrna police can spend less time tracking down fugitives and more regarding other town issues, Cpl. Dunning said.

As long as information is accurate, the source is not an issue, whether known or unknown, police said.

Anonymity is maintained

Anonymity can bring more people forward to take part, according to Cpl. Dunning.

“It’s huge,” Cpl. Dunning said. “If they want to remain anonymous and are providing credible information we do everything possible to protect their identity.”

Tips can come from anyone, but those who know a fugitive the best have the most information and care for their well-being.

“Family members or close friends are sometimes trying to get them to do the right thing, but they can’t force them to come in,” Cpl. Dunning said.

A fugitive voluntarily surrendering to police is likely to be seen more favorably when presented to the Court, Cpl. Dunning said.

Those who don’t come in on their own will face at least two officers who arrive for apprehension, possibly more, according to Smyrna PD policy. Once nabbed, they will be presented to JP Court 2 in Georgetown of JP Court 7 in Dover to establish bail conditions.

In the Wanted Wednesday feature presented in all capital letters, police stress that no citizen should attempt to apprehend a fugitive, but instead contact police to provide any information on the location.

“We don’t want anyone to put themselves in harm’s way by trying to apprehend an individual,” Chief Wood said.

“If they know where the individual is, (citizens) should call us or use our app to report the location of them and we will respond to do the apprehension.”

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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