Criminals aren’t the smartest bunch, especially when they post pictures, videos and brag about their crimes on various social media websites expecting not to get caught. Law enforcement agencies are cracking down and being trained to check social media outlets for these idiots and the courts are allowing such evidence to help convict them.
One question that arises is should things being posted to social media be used against individuals or should it be protected under the First Amendment? You can set your privacy settings to only allow friends to view your content but that won’t stop others from reporting your illegal activity. A New York judge ruled once the information is shared through social media it is public and can be used against you in a court of law.
Jacob Cox-Brown created a Facebook status about how he was driving drunk and had just committed a hit and run in Astoria, Ore. Not one but two of his friends reported him to authorities.
Michael Baker siphoned gas from a police car in Jenkins City, Ky. and posted a picture on Facebook, for which he spent a night in jail and was fined.
Hannah Sabata stole a car, used it to rob a bank then posted a video to YouTube where she wore the same clothes she had on during the robbery. Not to mention she was smoking out and flaunting her stack of cash. She too was arrested.
Gang members are posting pictures and statuses discussing their crimes including: advertising and setting up drug deals, recruiting new members, making gun deals and discussing murders. Evidence found on Jason Aguirre’s computer lead to his conviction of murder for which he was sentenced to death for a 2003 shooting death of a teenage boy in Westminster, Ca.
Parole officers can monitor their parolees and catch them doing things they aren’t supposed to be. The terms of their parole violated with a quick look on their social media account to confirm they are associating with other felons, doing drugs or drinking.
Child predators using social media to talk to and meet children are another concern plaguing law enforcement. They are creating fake accounts in order to learn personal information, gain their trust and convince them to meet. The Journal of Adolescent Health (via internetsafety101.org) states that an increasing amount of sex offenders are using social media websites to easily collect information such as likes and dislikes, information about a child’s home and school life as well as their location throughout the day.
Law enforcement is using everything at their disposal to collect evidence and catch these criminals. This now includes social media.
Users make tracking their location easy when checking in on Facebook. Their location can also be tracked using metadata collected when a picture or video is uploaded or from the IP address which is easily obtained by contacting the internet provider.
Law enforcement agencies are creating fake accounts of their own to befriend and catch criminals including gang members and child predators. Posing as a new recruit of a gang or a teenage girl is not a new tactic but has proved beneficial in their investigations.
These agencies are also using YouTube to post videos of crimes in hopes that people will recognize suspects and report them. The Philadelphia Police Department posted a video when a photographer was attacked on a SEPTA bus in May of 2012 which led to a quick arrest of a suspect.
Creating a Facebook page is another way law enforcement is finding witnesses. The Westminster Police Department Facebook page posts press releases asking for any information on unsolved crimes.
The Department of Homeland Security use a “Social Media Monitoring Center“ to look for acts of terrorism.
Not all agencies have started using social media to catch these masters of crime due to lack of knowledge but training is becoming more available to them. The SMILE conference is one such tool at their disposal. One of these conferences occurred in February 2013 and included such topics as using social media to release surveillance video, how to reach more people when circulating such content and the use of social media evidence in criminal trials.
Oodles of criminals are not shy about their illegal acts and feel the need to brag and get recognition from their peers. Social media is helping law enforcement to thin out the gene pool in order to keep criminals off the streets and for that everyone should be thankful. It’s just too bad they don’t post a list of their crimes on LinkedIn.