No honor among drug dealers? South Portland police hope so

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SOUTH PORTLAND — In a playful effort to curb the sale of illegal drugs, the South Portland Police Department on Monday posted a notice on its Facebook page encouraging dealers to snitch on their competitors.

“We’re here to help! Please take advantage of our free service by simply providing the following,” the notice says. It asks that names, locations, operating hours and addresses be mailed to the Police Department at 30 Anthoine St.

“Obviously, it’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing, but the intent was to get conversation going,” Lt. Frank Clark said Wednesday morning. “Certainly you never know what’s going to motivate someone to provide particular (information).”

The idea came from Officer Kevin Sager, one of the department’s drug administration experts, who saw a similar posting by a police department in Georgia.

“One of our preferences on social media is just to engage the community and have that two-way conversation,” Clark said, and humor is a way of doing that.

The intention wasn’t to make light of the increasing problem of drug abuse, Clark said.

“The underlying issue of opiate-related overdoses is very serious,” Clark said. “The impact on our community from drug abuse is always a negative, but it has been terrible this past year.”

Primarily, the notice was posted to spur continued conversation, he said.

As of Wednesday morning, the notice had been shared more than 300 times, received nearly 350 likes and more than 41,000 views – “the highest level of response I can recall,” Clark said.

Since the South Portland Police Department started its Facebook page about six years ago, it has changed the way the department interacts with citizens, said Clark, who is an administrator of the page.

The department uses social media as a means to communicate with the community and to facilitate citizen reporting of crime-related tips and more mundane issues, he said, ranging from notifications about malfunctioning traffic lights to identifying criminal suspects.

Many reported crimes have been solved “based on tips from our social media followers,” Clark said. “We have found it to be an extremely effective means of engaging community and helping to solve crime.”

The department has received one drug-related tip since the Facebook post, but it’s hard to know whether or not it was made in response to Monday’s notice, he said.

Providing a humorous entry point for a serious issue could be just the right way to get someone to act who otherwise wouldn’t, he added.

“You never know what’s going to strike a cord,” Clark said.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

The South Portland Police Department’s Aug. 17 Facebook post, encouraging drug dealers to report on their competitors, and some of the response to it.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.