Just as criminals have gotten more savvy when it comes to using social media to commit crimes, law enforcement is right on their trail, a trail, that involves tracking movements on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, and other such sites.
In recent years, more law enforcement departments nationwide have devoted more time and effort to monitoring social media chatter, looking for signs that criminals are posting comments and/or images to some of their latest crimes.
According to a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Center for Social Media in 2012, more than 60 percent of the 600 agencies surveyed stated they had a written social media policy in place, with that figure jumping more than 25 percent in only two years.
Meantime, some 90 percent of law enforcement agencies reported they presently use social media sites in their investigative work, with close to 70 percent who were not using it stating they would do so by the end of 2013. Lastly, the top reasons for law enforcement not using social media were lack of time, insufficient personnel, and security fears.
With more police turning to social media, that dynamic is one more thing criminals have to fear, especially if they are nabbed.
Online Evidence Speaks for Itself
According to information from PoliceOne.com, social media presented as evidence towards search warrants ends up being valid in court more than 85 percent of the time. Given that stat, why wouldn’t law enforcement want to be more involved in social media?
So, how are law enforcement officials best putting social media to use in order to get the jump on the bad guys (ladies in some cases)?
Ways that police can do this include:
- Check the Chatter – No matter what the crime may be, some criminals just can’t help but open their mouths. When that happens, they increase the odds that they will get caught, not to mention prosecuted for their crime or crimes. Law enforcement has stepped up its efforts to monitor conversations on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, especially looking out for any comments and photos related to gang activity. Some criminals are even dumb enough to post images of items they stole from others for all the world to see on social media;
- The Setup – Law enforcement can also set up a fake social media profile, hoping to get criminals to chat with them about their activities. Just as an informant in jail can lead police to someone spilling the beans, a social media conversation between a real criminal and a “pretend” criminal can do the same. As long as law enforcement avoids any entrapment claims, using social media to get information from criminals works;
- Engage the Community – It also behooves law enforcement departments to work hand-in-hand on social media with their local communities. As most officers will tell you, the people who live in the communities are the best eyes and ears law enforcement can get. The same holds true on social media, as citizens can set up neighborhood watch pages on sites like Facebook and Twitter, sharing pertinent information about unusual activities in their areas. That information can be very critical to a local police department investigating a string of burglaries or other crimes in that area. Law enforcement social media teams should make sure their pages are updated regularly, including providing residents with crime prevention articles and videos.
As more law enforcement officials turn to social media in the months and years to come, will criminals end up being a little less social?