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Special Report: Meet the 'virtual army' helping MPD bring criminals to justice

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Police say a virtual army is helping them bring criminals to justice.

Jesus Rivera works on the 7th floor of the Milwaukee Police headquarters. He helps solve crimes...but, he's not a cop.

"We do a lot with the media and we handle all the department's social media sites," said Jesus Rivera, MPD Media Specialist.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Nextdoor -- Jesus Rivera is part of a small department that runs MPD's accounts.

"We reach thousands of residents in the Milwaukee area," said Rivera. 

That reach has also become a large part of MPD's crimefighting arsenal.

"We put out surveillance video of the arson of a vehicle." 

The arson happened earlier in July on Chicago Street. No one witnessed the crime in person but since thousands of followers could get a look at the suspect, MPD got their man.

"Quite a few different tips came in, and we were able to identify the suspect," Rivera said. "We have taken him into custody."

MPD has more than 40,000 likes on Facebook and another 37,000 people follow them on Twitter.

Social media does not reach everybody, however, so MPD will often partner with the media. 

Back in June, CBS 58 News Lindsey Branwall covered men posing as roofers who stole thousands of dollars from a Milwaukee man.

"They knew all the right things to say." Two men distracted Tom Sears at the door while another one entered the home and looted his safe.

"I just hope it don't happen to nobody else, I lost a lot of money, and I'll never get it back," said Tom Sears, the victim in that case.

Milwaukee Police say CBS 58 did a story that brought them information which helped Tom find justice.

"Based on your story, on how you covered it, we were able to get identification of the suspects and are actively seeking them," said Rivera.

So while Jesus Rivera doesn't carry a gun or wear a badge, he does help Milwaukee Police access their most important tool --- you.

"We have seen a tremendous amount of engagement from the community," Rivera said. "They've been very helpful."

There is another side to social media for MPD. They also have a department that monitors the social media of suspected criminals. We didn't get to see that department...they don't want to give away any secrets. 


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