Social Media and Crime

Social media can be an effective tool in crime fighting.

I was planning on this being my next blog post subject before the atrocity in Newtown, Ct. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this horrible event.  Many initial news releases about the Newtown shooting mentioned that there were 2 people killed. I then went to Twitter since it is a very good source of breaking news. The tweets noted that there were many casualties. I was hoping that the tweets were incorrect. Sadly it was not to be.

Social media can be effective in reducing crime. Police departments are posting tips on how to deter burglaries and other criminal acts. Carolina Beach Police among other police departments say that “the use of Twitter and Facebook is an easy and fast way to alert neighbors about suspicious activity and will ultimately lead to safer neighborhoods.”  On the other side social media has also made it easier to be a crime victim. People posting that they are on vacation between certain times and making these posts public are telling the criminals that their home is unoccupied. If you are on Twitter anyone can follow you unless your tweets are protected. You should not announce where you are on a social media site anymore then you would tell a stranger of your whereabouts. You never know who could be checking if you are away. Cyber bullying is unfortunately occurring on social media. So yes social media can reduce crime and has caught criminals before they committed more crimes. They also can lead to crimes being committed. Proactive tips have served to prevent crimes as well.

There are criminals who like to brag both about crimes they commit and crimes they are planning to commit. Criminals have posted pictures of them committing crimes on Facebook and YouTube as well as other sites. 10% of all Facebook users in the USA totally ignore the privacy settings and they posts are in effect “Public” for all to see. You also have the ability to make individual posts public for all to see. If a criminal or anyone else makes a post that is public, law enforcement can use it as evidence without a warrant. Posts that are kept private are subject to Fourth Amendment protection and require the appropriate search warrants. Law enforcement is aware of this and has made friend requests of suspected criminals in an attempt to obtain evidence.

Pictures and videos have been submitted by witnesses of criminals in the act. This can provide valuable information to the incident commander and tactical operators on the scene.  When there were riots in the streets of Vancouver after their hockey team lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, law enforcement authorities used video posted online largely to YouTube to catch some of the perpetrators. These are just some of the ways social media has been used to catch criminals and address crime scene operations. Criminal behavior is photographed on a daily basis. Sometimes a criminal themself will upload evidence of their crime to a social media site.

Social media can be a useful tool in both preventing and solving crimes. As social media evolves it will be a more useful tool for fighting crime.

As always I am available at (917) 572-3468 for your technology needs. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Perri Ellington February 12, 2013 at 12:55 AM
I dont think social media can be an effective tool to solve crime. There are just no concrete examples of it being used to this point and the police should invest their money in things like stronger binoculars to spy on crooks and louder sirens as a means to deter criminals. Burglars don't like loud noises and louder sirens would deter most criminals unless they happen to be hearing impaired which would be unlucky.
Mike Klubok February 12, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I would be curious to hear what people in law enforcement have to say about social media and crime fighting.


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