Crime fighters in your community - on social media

HILTON, N.Y. (WHAM) - For Colleen Christ of Hilton, it started with a few friends.

"Friends of theirs would see it and ask to join and it just snowballed. We've got I think over 2,300 members now,” said Christ.

Christ is behind the Hilton Parma Virtual Neighborhood Watch, a private group on Facebook.

"It's key for Hilton because Hilton has always been a small town where everybody knew everybody. We're the typical small town and we don't want crime out here. We want to watch out for our neighbors,” said Christ.

Members can post about suspicious activity, crimes or concerns.

"We recognize that people get a lot of their news from social media,” said Captain John Helfer with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Helfer says it can be a useful tool, but urges caution.

"Falsehoods, incorrect information can be spread and be spread rapidly,” said Helfer. "Be careful when posting information whether it's a neighborhood watch or any other post. Verify the information and if you have any questions about the information contact us."

That's something Christ urges in her group. Don't just post, call police. That's exactly what happened with recent surveillance video when a Parma homeowner discovered his plow had been stolen. He shared the video with police then on the Facebook neighborhood watch page.

"It gets shared then people can share that information on their own page,” said Christ.

The case is still open, but Christ says that kind of communication is key to keeping their neighborhoods safe.

"If there is a strange car that's coming by every day at a certain time going really slow we want to know is that person living in the neighborhood now or are they looking for something,” said Christ.

She checks the weekly crime updates from the sheriff's office and believes they are making an impact.

"I think having everybody on a higher alert, keeping their lights on at night, video cameras, doors locked, don't leave stuff in your car. People are finally getting it,” said Christ.

Christ says their group is registered with the National Neighborhood Watch Association

The group also plans in-person meetings. They’ll hold their next one this spring.

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