Social Media The New Frontier Of Crime Fighting

social media to crime fightPractically everyone uses social media these days—including criminals. Most people Instagram pictures of themselves eating a fancy scone, or post status updates about a new pair of shoes they just bought. Criminals use social media the same way the rest of do, but instead of showing off what they just purchased, they brag about what they just stole.

Yes, many crooks have been busted because of TMI shares about crimes committed through social media and cops are now capitalizing on how relatively easy it is to access this information.

How Police Are Using This New Data Source

1) To obtain a search warrant

In order to obtain a search warrant that will allow law enforcement officials to enter a property and look for physical evidence, they must convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that they will find something. A Facebook status update about drugs, or an Instagram photo saying “Look what I just stole” is a perfect way to justify searching someone’s house. According to a LexisNexis survey, “87% of the time, search warrants utilizing social media to establish probable cause hold up in court when challenged, according to respondents.”

2) To prevent a crime from happening

Social media has also been instrumental in detecting possible terrorist-like activity. The same survey from Lexis Nexis illustrated one instance where a law enforcement officer indicated that social media provided information on a: “terroristic threat involving students in a local high school. Further investigation (utilizing Facebook) revealed the threats were credible and we conducted follow-up investigations which revealed a student intent on harming others. The student was in the process of attempting to acquire weapons. It’s my belief we avoided a ‘Columbine’ type scenario.”

If monitoring social media in this fashion can save even one life, then it’s certainly worth every second and penny the state spends investigating such cases.

3) To catch criminals after the fact

You’d be shocked at how many criminals post about their activities on Facebook. Sometimes their status updates are literally as obvious as, “I just robbed a bank!” I guess these folks don’t realize that anything you post on a public platform is fair game, and can absolutely be used against you in court.

4) To identify at-risk individuals

Last year, the Arcadia Police Department was notified about a Colorado teen in trouble. A member of a network of volunteers in search of Tumblr users in danger of suicide or depressed, saw that a teenager in Arcadia had posted a photo of herself on Tumblr with self-inflicted cuts on her wrists and alarming messages about suicide and self-harm. An Arcadia police patrol supervisor was able to use information from the microblogging site, Facebook and other department resources to locate and notify a friend of the troubled teen, who was then able to direct police to her, and get her help.

Although many people might view using social media to solve crimes as an invasion of privacy, many more would assert that the potential benefits outweigh any perceived downfalls. I, for one, know that I’m not plotting a terrorist attack, or a bank heist, and I don’t commit crimes. So to be honest, I don’t really care if a cop sees all my cat pictures and random musings about what T.V. show I’m watching if it helps prevent someone from killing themselves. Read on, law man, read on.


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