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Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jerry Moe looks over the new department website that launched Tuesday. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Douglas County sheriff targets crime with new website

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After a rash of telephone wire thefts last summer, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department turned to social media to catch a thief.

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The department had a surveillance photo of the suspect stealing wire. They needed to put a name with the face. Instead of sending out a typed fax to the media, the office sent it into cyberspace.

“Within an hour of starting a brand new Facebook page and posting that picture, over a thousand people viewed it, dozens commented, and by the end of the day, we had that guy identified,” Chief Deputy Jerry Moe said. “What a powerful tool.”

This week, the department widened its digital footprint with a new website.

“We hope it will cut down the number of people calling in for informational questions which frees up the staff from having to answer phones, but I think more importantly, it provides a lot of information to the public at their fingertips,” Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.

He said the move provides greater transparency and encourages the public to take a more active role in keeping the community safe. Between the sheriff’s office and the Superior Police Department, roughly a dozen officers are watching the county’s more than 14,000 square miles at any one time. But a Facebook post on a wanted suspect or request for information can tap into the whole community.

“An informed public is a safer public,” Moe said. “The criminal element is more powerful when it can operate with anonymity. That anonymity has been dealt a serious blow — want to see who the criminals are? Just visit the sheriff’s website.”

The site includes information on the jail, civil process, car seats, road conditions, sheriff sales and much more. Pin maps identify the sites of vehicle crashes and where sex offenders live.

“One of the biggest things that I think people are going to like, probably visit a lot, is the most wanted fugitive links and the ‘locate registered sex offenders,’ ” Dalbec said. “Our intent is for every county resident to visit the site and become familiar with how to locate sex offenders, how to submit a crime tip and where to find the latest news and updates from the sheriff’s office,” Dalbec said.

The website is paid for out of the jail assessment fund, which comes from Douglas County citation money. A portion of each fine is earmarked for the fund.

“If you have been pulled over and paid your fine for speeding, then you helped pay for it,” Dalbec said.

People can download an app to access the page on their phone, sign up for email alerts and contact the department.

At its heart, the website is a communication tool to link the department with members of the public.

“It will be as successful as they make it,” Dalbec said.

Look up the site directly at sheriffofdouglascountywi.org or link to it through the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page.

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