You might not realize it, but in likelihood your local police department has been perusing your Tweets or checking out your Facebook page. Why? Because they have found a number of criminals make use of social media to communicate, share details of their illegal exploits and even post incriminating videos and photographs of themselves or their friends engaged in criminal activity.
Some police officers have called social media the single greatest advancement in law enforcement since fingerprinting analysis. After all, if you can actually watch a video of people committing an armed robbery, and can identify both the people in the video and the person who had possession of the video (the person who posted it) that makes your job as a crime fighter much, much easier.
There have been numerous instances of police using social media to track down known felons, track gang activity and even re-capture criminals. This is hardly their first foray into the World Wide Web. Undercover police have been effectively using chat rooms, forums and bulletin boards in an effort to bust everything from counterfeiters to child pornographers for decades. In fact, for as many ways as criminals find to use social media for their nefarious deeds, the police have just as many opportunities to counter them, if not more.
Some people decry the use of social media for criminal activity, but I encourage it. In fact, if I could force every criminal in the world to use social media, I would. There is simply no better way to keep tabs on what they are doing; track their activity and bust them on a regular basis. Social media is like an online Neighborhood watch, only in this case the whole world is watching.
The analysts at the city’s Real Time Crime Center found the footage on a Facebook page while using the popular social-media site to investigate another crime. The suspects were eventually arrested.
“We were looking at friends and friends of friends of the suspects (in the other case), and we just happened to run across it,” says Lt. Lisa Thomas, who heads the center that was founded two years ago to monitor the Internet and the cameras installed across the city. “You have guys who are bragging about their crimes online.”
With more netizens flaunting their actions and thoughts in the open, social media has become a mainstay in police work. Police departments and federal agencies are aggressively seeking information from social-media companies, beefing up their budgets and providing training to dig for online clues left by criminals and victims in targeted investigations.