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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Franklin police using YouTube

FRANKLIN

In an unusual crimefighting tactic, Franklin police have posted a video on YouTube, the popular video-sharing service, hoping for help in identifying suspects in a stolen credit card case.

The surveillance video shows two men who are allegedly using a stolen credit card in the checkout line at a Home Depot.

‘‘You never know who is going to say ‘Hey, I know that guy,’’’ said Officer Brian Johnson.

The Franklin department appears to be on the cutting edge. Police in Canada investigating an apparent murder near a hiphop club recently posted to YouTube a surveillance video of two men they want to question, saying they believed it was a first.

Franklin’s video, taken Dec. 12. by a security camera perched above the cash registers at the Bellingham Home Depot, shows two burly men making a purchase, which Johnson said was for merchandise worth hundreds of dollars.

It was the pair’s third stop within an hour of stealing the card from a car at a fitness center in Franklin; they allegedly racked up thousands in purchases at several stores in Franklin and Bellingham, he said.

In the video on YouTube (search ‘‘Franklin police’’), which is also available on the police website, franklinpolice.com, one man appears to be dressed all in black, and the other wears a football jersey with the number 80 on the front under a tan jacket.

Although their faces are not completely clear, police hope someone will be able to identify the two men.

Although the men used the credit cards in Franklin and Bellingham, Johnson doesn’t think they’re local residents. He said the town is subject to periodic waves of similar thefts from cars parked at shopping centers, restaurants and fitness clubs.

‘‘Past intelligence tells us they’re from a ring operating in the Lowell area,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘They just operate up and down the highway. They seem to hit the town hard for a while then disappear.’’

It’s common for police to share videos and photos between departments, but putting it out on the Internet is an unusual, new technique, said Donald Kennedy, executive director of the New England State Police Information Network, which is a Department of Justice-funded service that helps police departments share information.

"Why not, if you can catch the bad guys? This may be the future," he said. "Sometimes the police are the last to get in step with technology."

It’s not the first time the Franklin police have done something tech-savvy. A year ago, the department began offering podcasts.

-- Alison O'Leary Murray

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