Joliet police last week joined the millions of users on Pinterest, but they won't be sharing recipes or decorating tips.
Instead, followers of the Joliet police page can "pin" photos of wanted suspects or information about a recent crime.
"Everyone is using social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest," said Joliet police Detective Sgt. Darrell Gavin. "It's a natural progression for the Police Department to start using it."
On Tuesday, Joliet police became what is believed to be one of the first law enforcement departments in Illinois to launch a Pinterest page, adding the site to a social media portfolio that already includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the free public notification service Nixle.
Pinterest is a 3-year-old virtual bulletin board often used to share home decor, fashion or baking ideas, not necessarily to help police track down criminals. But the site has exploded into the wider mainstream, gaining users at a faster rate than some other social media giants did in their early years, and it could be an avenue for police to reach a new audience.
As of Friday, the Joliet police Pinterest page had about 100 followers and more than 20 pinned items, such as a poster about a missing man, a photo of a wanted suspect and information about unsolved homicides.
"It's our version of 'America's Most Wanted,' but on social media," Gavin said.
The convenience of being able to log into Pinterest — or any other social media outlet — from home allows the department to reach more residents, he said.
"You can reach out and basically talk to the world," he said.
Police departments in other cities such as Philadelphia and Kansas City, Mo., also have recently turned to Pinterest to inform residents.
Philadelphia police turned to Pinterest after hearing about a reporter in the neighboring community of Pottstown who had created a Pinterest page to pin that community's wanted criminals. Police in Pottstown noticed a nearly 60 percent increase in arrests after the creation of that page, said Cpl. Frank Domizio, social media/community monitor for the Philadelphia Police Department.
"That was enough for us," he said.
Philadelphia launched its police page four months ago. And though it has not determined whether tips have increased, the department has slightly more than 300 followers on its Pinterest page, Domizio said. It may be difficult to track how much of a difference Pinterest has made in the department's crime-fighting efforts, because anonymous tipsters aren't required to say where they saw information about a particular crime. But, Domizio said, "even if we just get one arrest, it's worth it," noting that the only cost to the department is his time in posting to the page.
Although Joliet plans to continue using other social media, Gavin noted that one of the benefits of Pinterest is that visitors to the site do not have to have a Pinterest account to view the department's page and its content.
Find the Joliet Police Department's Pinterest page at pinterest.com/jolietpolice. Links to the department's other social media pages can be found at jolietpolice.org.