ASHBOURNE'S police chief says officers investigating the town's latest spate of burglaries were "hindered" by people speculating about the culprits on Facebook instead of contacting detectives.
Sergeant Denis Murphy was also shocked to see people using the social networking site to describe crimes they were watching take place, rather than calling 999.
Cornerstone Café, Red Chilli, Equatorial, Chimes Café and Serenity were among businesses targeted by burglars earlier this month.
But Sgt Murphy said, while social media had its place in helping officers investigate crimes, it should not be used as an alternative to providing vital information to police.
He said: "We had one case where someone was actually seeing cars being broken into, and decided to put it on Facebook instead of telling us.
"We couldn't believe they had made the effort to go on to the site to do that when it would have been just as quick to call us.
"Thankfully, someone did see that post and decided to get in touch, so we were able to make an arrest – but people should not rely on someone else to phone us."
After the Equatorial burglary, CCTV footage and photos were released, showing the burglars breaking in.
Sgt Murphy, from Ashbourne's Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: That was a great example of how well social media can work.
"After the News Telegraph posted the story and video link online, it was shared among people more than 50 times – and that is a great way to get the message out.
"That is how we would like to see these social media sites used – not for gossip and speculation, but to get facts out for everyone to see."
Ashbourne has experienced an increase in crime in the past two months, compared with the same period last year, but Sgt Murphy was quick to reassure people that crime had been falling over the past two years.
He said: "There are so many factors to consider when there is a sudden spate of problems. Who has just been released from prison? Who has recently moved into the area? What big events have been held in the area, and who did they attract?
"And that is why we need people to tell us what they know, rather than just post it and comment on it to their friends. The more information we have, the better."