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Auburn PD will put suspected shoplifters on social media blast in new campaign

"The last thing somebody wants to be is in a bad light on Facebook."

AUBURN (NEWS CENTER Maine) - Auburn Police are publicly shaming criminals to make them think twice before they break the law.

The department says it's seen an 84 percent spike in shoplifting in the last year. It says most of the offenders come from neighboring Lewiston, followed by Auburn, then other towns.

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"When it comes to figuring out the crime rate, shoplifting has the same weight as a homicide," said Deputy Chief Jason Moen. "So that really drives our crime rate up."

To fight the rising crime, the department is launching a new campaign, called 'STOP-A-THEFT.' Every Wednesday, the department will post mugshots to its Facebook page, of everyone arrested for shoplifting that week.

"The last thing somebody wants to be is in a bad light on Facebook," Moen said.

The department hopes that taking the mugshots to the court of public opinion will deter people from committing the crime.

People commenting on Facebook were split down the middle. Some were concerned that blasting a person's alleged crime before they see their day in court might be illegal. "It's public information," said Moen. "It's no different than if we arrest somebody for an aggravated assault or large drug seizure."

He says shoplifters often target "self checkout" stations, checking only some of their items and taking the rest illegally. The department plans to work with the city to limit the number of self checkout stations at stores.