The Facebook group 'Stealing Nanaimo' — with close to 900 members — allows people to list property that has been stolen in the hope that second-hand stores and pawn shops will check the site.
"When someone steals something, it either gets pawned off or shipped out somewhere," said Anne Bright, who started the page after her son's house was broken into.
The "cyber neighbourhood watch" has generated tips for police, and even helped to return stolen wedding rings and vehicles, Bright said.
Pages are now popping up in other places, including Ottawa, Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
The groups have caught the eye of criminologists who want to study the phenomenon.
"One is the possibility that people may get some stolen property returned and the more intangible prospect of building community in small neighbourhoods," said John Anderson, who teaches at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.
Anderson says it will be interesting to monitor if the groups actually make communities safer.
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