Solving crimes with the aide of social media

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 25, 2014

A little over a week ago, the Picayune Item published a story about a stolen vehicle that was recovered and returned to the owner with the help of the popular social media website, Facebook.
After realizing someone had stolen his new 4-wheeler from his carport, a local man posted a description of the vehicle on his Facebook account and explained what had happened. Eventually one of his friends recognized the stolen 4-wheeler from the Facebook post and reported it to the authorities.
“This was one of those instances where Facebook actually helped us solve a case,” said Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Shane Tucker in the story.
This example of social media helping officers solve a crime is not an isolated incident. In fact, out of 1,200 law enforcement professionals who participated in a nationwide 2012 LexisNexis Risk Solutions survey, 80 percent are using social media to aid in investigations.
The survey also included personal accounts from law enforcement members who have used these online resources. One officer said that Facebook was used for further investigation after violent threats were issued to the local high school. Through their investigation, the officer discovered the threats were legitimate, and he believes the use of social media helped avoid a “Columbine type scenario” from occurring.
Facebook and YouTube were the two biggest social media resources for law enforcement officers in this survey, but the New York Police Department also has a Twitter account that is used to catch criminals who exercise the poor judgment to brag about their crimes on the internet.
While plenty of the material we find on social media can be viewed as a waste of time, this survey provides evidence that when used properly, websites like Facebook and Twitter can have a meaningful impact on a community.
The public should feel comfortable using these resources for a worthwhile purpose, and law enforcement officials should be encouraged to utilize any valuable information found through social media to help keep people safe.

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