Use of Social Networking by Law Enforcement
Recently social networking websites have become a very good source for law enforcement. Many criminal have been caught by the police and other agencies by having their information tracked through their profiles. These websites are becoming more and more personal. The user’s page can include their phone number, current city and the newest feature: the check in.
I found an article in the Washington Post in which different agencies were interviewed regarding their use of social networking systems Several said that they were key to catching many drug dealers and high profile gang members. Agencies claim that Facebook and Myspace are their first two resources used when looking for a suspect, witness or other people involved in the solving of a crime. These serve as important areas of information gathering for law enforcement. The use of networking sites was used more in a local sense but it has begun to spread to the Federal level. The Federal agencies use these sites mostly for help in solving major gang investigations. Gang have begun using these sites as their primary sources of communication just like the rest of the world. The only difference is this could be harming them more than benefiting them.
It is clear that people especially criminals do not use these websites very carefully. And for that law enforcement is taking advantage as they should. If these criminals want to broadcast their crimes on public social networking sites let them do it by all means. It’s only helping solve the crimes they commit. A case in Washington D.C. involving the gang referred to as MS-13 had a member update his current city to New Orleans, LA. This member had been on the run and had been wanted for more than two years for a gang related stabbing. He was found based off the information on his profile. Some gangs have even been found using social networking sites to silence witnesses and intimidate those who are able to incriminate them.
However, law enforcement has run into some problems when using these sites. Some teens tend to make threats that they don’t intend to follow through on but to law enforcement all of these should be handled and confronted and in most cases it is a teen who is just bored. But in other cases it was a good thing the threat was investigated as it resulted in an arrest of someone planning to commit a crime. A situation in Southeast Washington is a great example of this. A photo was posted to Facebook in which a gang member of a highly publicized gang was holding a rocket launcher. After further investigation by officials it was discovered that the photo was photoshopped.
A Washington, D.C. police lieutenant described these networking sites as “ a spider web of connections” and that is exactly what it is. One person could lead you to someone else and so on. However, do these sites aide more in benefit or harm?