When the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation launched its Facebook page two months ago, it was just trying to share what its game wardens do with the general public. Instead, the page has turned into a criminal hotline.
While the department started the Operation Game Thief telephone hotline decades ago, they now receive more tips through their Facebook page than they get by telephone. According to Oklahoma game warden supervisor James Edwards Jr, quoted in The Oklahoman, game wardens have already solved several cases from contacts made through Facebook posts.
The first case solved in this manner came about from a post about two deer that were shot out of season in Jefferson County. The poachers only took their heads. The photo received 150,000 page views within a day and a half and was viewed 600,000 times in total. Game wardens were able to solve the case two weeks later thanks to tips they got from Facebook.
Now Oklahoma’s game wardens make a point to post the details of cases they are investigating. While hunters and fishermen frequently text game wardens to report suspicious activity, it appears that the general public did not know how to contact Oklahoma’s game wardens before the department went onto social media.
An additional benefit of Facebook is that instead of just bragging to their friends about their illegal kills, some poachers now post pictures of their kills on the social media site making it much easier to catch them.
The game wardens are having such success with their investigations as a result of their Facebook page that they are thinking of launching a dedicated Operation Game Thief page to use solely for law enforcement purposes.