SPARTA, Wis. - Like other law enforcement agencies, the Sparta Police Department uses Facebook to try and find suspects. But they have one component to their posts that isn't so traditional -- a good sense of humor.
The Sparta police department is becoming well known for its funny Facebook posts, and said that not only has humor made them stand out on social media, but it's actually helped them track down more suspects.
"Cops enjoy catching bad guys, we really do,” patrol Sgt. Jason Pipkin said.
Much like Batman, Pipkin wants to catch the bad guys, operating under what can be described as his alias: The Sparta Police Department's Facebook page, which he took over a few years ago.
Pipkin said they were concerned about coming off as unprofessional at first, but he said for the most part, the posts have been well-received.
"We are a professional department," he said. "We just like to have a laugh once in a while and solve these crimes."
Pipkin noticed that by using humor, the posts got a lot more attention.
And of course, every Batman needs his Robin. In this case, it’s Officer Justin Grones, who has a background in communication.
"They do work good together and it's great to see officers working together to help the community,” said Sparta Police Chief David Kuderer.
Kuderer takes credit for a popular Sparta Police Department Facebook post warning drivers of icy roads with a picture of Vanilla Ice attached.
"I was sitting here looking at Facebook and I had ‘dundundundundundundun’ in my head just thinking about the icy road, and I googled Vanilla Ice, and here we are,” he said.
It may not be your average post from a police department, but it did its job.
"This post ended up reaching almost 33,000 people, and it was shared 113 times,” Grones said.
When compared to other posts on the Sparta Police Department Facebook page, it's not that out of character.
"This one here has reached over 200,000 people. That's the letter I wrote to a suspect (for) multiple gas drive-offs at Kwik Trip,” Pipkin said.
So far, Pipkin's post from early January, directed at a suspect the department is looking for, is the most popular on the page.
"I thought it'd be funny to write a letter to him, and just tell everybody else not to read it because we know everyone else is going to read it then,” Pipkin said.
The post boosted the page's "like" count, from 9,434 to 10,785 in just days. To add some context, the page now officially has more likes than the entire population of Sparta.
But it's not just likes, or even laughs, that the officers are looking for.
No, it's actually catching the bad guys. And if the likes or laughs help that, then even better.
"Being different, being funny, bringing humor into it, it's helped us reach a lot more people and we've solved a lot more cases because of that,” Grones said.
And the man accused of stealing gas in Pipkin's recent post? Leave it to Sparta's crime-fighting duo to find him.
Pipkin said that about 80 percent of the crimes they've posted on Facebook asking for users' help have been solved.
"We still haven't found him yet but we will,” Pipkin said.
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