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Law Enforcement Turns to Social Media to Collar More Criminals

While the goal of criminals is always to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, some of them inevitably end up leading authorities in their direction by not being able to keep their mouths shut.

In a day and age when social media is all the rage, it seems more and more criminals are tripping themselves up by bragging about their antics on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Take some of these instances pointed out last year by The Washington Post where criminals were a day late and a dollar short when it came to using their brains:

  • Members of an alleged street gang were reportedly using MySpace to funnel information regarding a potential hit on a federal witness.
  • One alleged dealer voiced his complaints on an online site regarding how an individual was “watering down the pack” of PCP, a hallucinogen. An FBI agent was able to translate that remark in court documents as where one creates “more, though less potent, narcotics.”
  • Authorities used Facebook to nab a man wanted in a gang-related stabbing after he posted his new hometown and contact information.

Yes, some criminals are not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, but you would think most would know not to go spouting off information about themselves or their alleged activities on various social media platforms.

Societal Trends and Criminals

As one law enforcement official pointed out in The Washington Post piece, many gangs are just following the trends we see in society. Sites such as Facebook and MySpace are now proving to be major sources of communication amongst them.

More and more, law enforcement officials are dedicating staff time to monitoring social networking pages for any gang-related chatter or other conversations that could be crime-related. Among the most useful items can be lists of friends, group photos and updated contact information.

That being said, law enforcement officials do have to tread carefully so as not to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of individuals, even those they suspect of being involved in criminal activity.

Law Enforcement Keeps up the Pressure

And is there any sign of law enforcement officials pulling back on the social media efforts? Don’t think so.

The New York Police Department, which oversees the nation’s largest city, not long ago unveiled a new unit whose task is to hunt down criminals utilizing social media networks, including both kids and adults.

And while oftentimes posting mug shots of those individuals recently arrested and/or being sought and also sharing press releases, numerous police departments nationwide are using social media in yet other ways.

A number of them are using sites like Facebook to offer a community forum for members to voice questions, concerns and complaints regarding law enforcement actions in and around where they live.

Any way you look at it, law enforcement and social media are coming face to face, meaning criminals may want to think about becoming more anti-social.


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Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas covers consumer and small business topics for various websites, including Reputation.com.

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