CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Social media is making its way into emergency management in Clay County.
On Tuesday, commissioners gave the green light to allow county groups to create accounts for social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.
"There's the picture right there," said Detective Mark Maertz, pointing out his first experience using Facebook on a case.
"I was actually investigating a grand theft from Walmart and I had the guy's picture, I just didn't have a name. So I contacted Mary Justino thinking, we got the Facebook page, and she could put the picture on Facebook."
So he did. And less than 24 hours later, Maertz was surprised by the response.
"I came to work the next morning and had six phone calls saying, 'oh that's so and so.' It worked out good. It was really exciting actually. Not having anything, then next morning you come in and you got it all."
The Clay County Sheriff's Office just started its Facebook page in October. In addition to persons of interest, it also posts things like traffic updates, Amber Alerts and important information like a post from earlier this week, alerting people that the phone lines weren't working.
The policy passed today would allow county groups, like emergency management to also start a page.
"It's an added tool in the emergency manager's toolbox," said Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock.
"The goal will be to utilize it effectively and hopefully we can have it implemented fully before hurricane season."
When we asked around to see if people thought adding social media to emergency communications would be beneficial, we got mixed reactions.
"I honestly don't use it like that. I'm on it once a day maybe twice to check and see what my friends are doing, then I'm off," says resident Monique Marshall.
"I definitely stay on Facebook all the time," said Joe Tompkins.
"So, I think that putting alerts on there will keep people informed, whether it be Amber Alerts or a storm coming through, it'll definitely keep people informed," he said.
Despite the mixed responses, the Sheriff's Office Facebook page hit 2,000 "likes" this week. Maertz said it's also led to dozens of potential leads for cases.
It's not just Facebook; he said Twitter has also helped detectives track down people as far away as California.
Maertz suggests if you are a Facebook or Twitter user to find your local law enforcement agency and follow them or like their page for important updates:
Clay County Sheriff's Office:
Jacksonville Sheriff's office
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office
First Coast News