MANCHESTER, NH – Krystle Crossman says she’s called Manchester Police plenty of times in the past two years to report random acts of crime in her West Side neighborhood.
It’s just an avocational hazard, when your hobbies include listening to scanner chatter and spending time on Facebook.
But earlier this week Crossman’s interaction with police was elevated to potential crime-buster – she called to relay compelling evidence brought to her attention by a few of her Facebook followers, devotees of the crime-centric page she’s created, Manchvegas Alerts.
The information, including surveillance photos, seemed to single out a particular thief on the loose around the city. If the tips pan out, well, Crossman just crowdsourced a criminal.
“Two people actually sent me the name of a suspect after seeing something about it on FOX25 News,” said Crossman on Thursday. “We’ll see what happens.”
The first video she received came from a man who captured a crook taking a bike off the back of his roommate’s car. That video caught the attention of some of her other followers, who said they had captured images of a bad guy with similar identifying traits – from his arm tattoo and facial hair, to a particular necklace and backpack.
By Thursday, Crossman said two different people contacted her with the name of the same possible perpetrator, which she has also passed along to police. She’s waiting to find out if the information checks out.
Manchester Police Lt. Brian O’Keefe said detectives are actively looking into the case.
“Local social media sites aided the investigation because they knew one of the victims and passed along the victim’s name, which in turn generated a police report,” O’Keefe said.
In that way, Crossman’s page – and others like them – now function like a network of virtual citywide neighborhood watch groups.
“There are so many out there willing to help. It’s kind of crazy, how one person shares one thing, and then all of a sudden you have all this information coming in,” Crossman says.
Crossman, who has dabbled in more than a few careers – including a brief stint as an EMT with Rockingham Ambulance before they shut down operations, a phlebotomist, and work for an insurance company – currently works four different home-based jobs that fit her role as a single mom. She admits she devotes “more time than I should” to monitoring the scanner and posting on ManchVegas Alerts.
“Yeah, it’s like a full-time job,” she says.
Her passion for photography pushes her toward becoming a photojournalist one day, and she says she’d like to get her certification as an EMT once her son is older and on auto-pilot.
In the meantime, she remains devoted to the site, and says she still marvels at how the page has “exploded” over the past two years. It started with occasional police and fire alerts on her personal Facebook page, and has evolved to include everything from posting lost pets to reports of sketchy people in the neighborhood.
“We’ve found lost dogs before, but we’ve never solved a crime – that would be awesome,” says Crossman, who is a one-woman operation. That means when she shuts down, so does the site. Well, at least, from her end – although her 24,000 followers don’t hesitate to post news tips, questions and observations, 24/7.
It’s become a popular alternative news source, even getting the attention last year of the Union Leader, who interviewed Crossman about her site.
“I think that’s when it began to sink in that it was taking off,” says Crossman, who does what she does so people can be in the know.
“The worst is when there’s something going on at a school, like when there was a lock down at West High School last fall. People were freaking out. They just want to know what’s going on, and so in those situations I try to give updates without giving out too much information that will hinder a police investigation,” Crossman says.
She figures the page has provided a place where people can satisfy their curiosity if they hear sirens or see lots of police or fire activity in their neighborhood.
And she’s not the only one. Manchester is a big city and, as a result, has incubated more than its fair share of social media crime hubs on Facebook, including Manchester Information with more than 17,000 followers, run by Jeffrey Hastings, and Manchester Emergency Alert Center, with more than 8,000 followers, run by Dave Violette.
Although each page has a slightly different scope, the purpose is to the same: To be the eyes and ears of the city.
Or as one of the theft victims, Joe Bourque, said during a FOX25 interview, “The police, with the drug problem, have a lot on their hands, so any way we can help them and get these guys off the street is awesome.”
At the very least, Manchester’s crime-focused social media pages provide a tool to help ease people’s fears when something’s going on, says Crossman. And now, perhaps to help them recover items lost to a thief in the night.
“If something happened where I’d have to get an office job, I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. But the way I’m looking at it for now is that it will be good to have on my resume – and it seems to be helping people, and making a difference in the city.”