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Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites have become a new source of information for investigating police, according to Sergeant Tony Slocum, Indiana State Police.
Slocum said with the new technology some criminals are now posting and bragging about the crimes they commit. When criminals do that, he said, sometimes people see it and report it to the authorities.
“We use all resources at our disposal. Obviously with the way times have gone, quite often with some of our younger people, they are posting intent, pictures or bragging about what they have done,” Slocum said. “We have to use all avenues and if they think the investigators can use that resource to solve a crime then that is a resource we are going to utilize.”
Social media sites can also be a challenge for investigators, according to Slocum, as there are times when someone posts about committing a crime, or the intent to commit a crime, and didn’t actually do anything. They get some false leads in cases like that.
“The heart of police work is people, you still have to interview suspects and witnesses. Social media is just another piece of the puzzle to put a case together along with other evidence we collect. We know people like to brag on those sites, it can also be a hindrance if someone is bragging about a crime they didn’t commit,” Slocum said.
State police are not the only ones using social media sites. Police units all across the country are now using social media as a tool to help track down criminals and as another form of communication between the police and the public.
“Periodically we will get a call of criminal behavior maybe about to happen and if we are given the information that it has been posted on Facebook we will use it. It can be a very helpful tool,” Peru Police Chief Steve Hoover said.
Some police forces are also using social media sites to send out information that is vital. The Indiana State Police have a Facebook and Twitter page where they post information about missing persons, suspects and recent crimes.
“We have the resources for people to provide us information using the media sites and it is a way for us to provide the public with information,” Slocum said.
The use of social media sites has also been a bit controversial recently as many states have passed, or attempted to pass law banning sex offenders from using such sites. Many groups argue that this is unconstitutional despite the access the offenders may have to children or underage youth.
“Our job is to enforce the law. If a law comes down to us to keep sex offenders off social media sites we will enforce it to the best of our abilities, if not then we won’t. We’ll let the lawmakers deal with anything beyond that,” Slocum said.