This is literally my third attempt at this post. Not sure why it doesn't work - perhaps because I put links in the post? Hopefully it works this time! ...The momo challenges got me thinking about this and I started exploring the topic to get some information. I hope you'll share your thoughts on it as well. I wrote a piece on how police use social media to fight crimes and came up with 5 ways they do. It's interesting because while we're scrolling over facebook posts of cats; there is law enforcement using Facebook to catch criminals. Here's the five ways I came up with....(p.s sorry it's written in essay form, I'm a student so that's the easiest write I can write my thoughts).
1. Protecting citizens from danger: In a 2016 ‘Law Enforcement Use of Social Media’ Survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Urban Institute, 91% of the 539 law enforcement agencies reported that they use social media to ‘notify the public of safety concerns’. More than 80% of the agencies who use social media utilize it as a way of engaging with the public and notifying people of dangers (some of which are non-crime issues like emergency info, and road closures). For example, on Aug 3rd 2018, the Toronto Police twitter page informed Torontians about the location of an unidentified package in the busy streets of Toronto, thereby letting the public know to avoid the area until the threat was destabilized. Another example is the police’s use of twitter on the tragic shooting that took place on August 10th in Fredericton, New Brunswick. While the shooting was active, Fredericton Police were quick to inform the public via Twitter updates about the dangers in the area and warned residents to remain inside their homes until the threat was over.
2. Using social media to gain evidence and uncover details in a case: In line with the 2016 National American survey, the Joffe Law firm’s blog explains that police use Facebook and Twitter to gain evidence for court. Facebook can be used to identify suspects, obtain incriminating information, solicit tips on crimes, and find key details in pending cases. Police can legally create fake accounts to communicate with suspects and can even access private accounts if it’s for good cause. In some cases, police don’t have to work too hard to find suspects: in Milwaukee, Jeffrey S. Kirk was arrested by police, after broadcasting his drug dealings on Facebook Live.
3. Locating victims, or suspects in a crime: In an article by the University of Cincinnati, the author explains that social media is a vital tool for spreading Amber Alerts rapidly, and locating criminals on the loose. Emily Vacher, former FBI agent and director of Trust and Safety at Facebook, quoted in an article on News.com.au explains: “Speed is critical [for saving children’s lives]. Research indicates that of those children who are going to be killed, 75 per cent will be killed in the first four hours.” Ms. Vacher goes on to say that lives have been saved by police officials using Facebook to share amber alerts.
4. Using apps to their advantage: Most people by now have heard of Waze (a navigation app that happens to alert users where police are doing speed traps). Some police officials are now using the same app to engage with the public. For example, CBC Boston reported in Pelham, that N.H; police officers used the Waze app to let users know of their presence at a local speed trap, reminding users to watch their speed and drive safely. It sends a message to users that law enforcement is on top of new technology that is being used against them. It also reminds us that police officials enforce these rules to save our lives. Just as police officers are aware of Waze; they remain vigilant of other popular apps – including those that are dangerous for the public, particular children.
5. Public engagement: The 2016 National American survey on law enforcement use of social media reports that close to 90% of the police agencies who participated in the survey reported using social media for citizen engagement, public relations, reputation management, and community outreach. In an article by the University of Cincinnati, social media is explained as valuable way to introduce new officers to the team, highlight achievements, pay tribute to deceased colleagues, encourage interest in law enforcement careers, post vacancies in the department, and invite the community to public events (e.g. the police parade). This humanizes the police force and creates a bond between citizens and police officers – trust and faith in our police department is vital. If citizens feel protected, they will feel more inclined to report crimes and engage police on important matters.
While police officers are using social media as tool in law enforcement, it's good to note that some private investigation agencies are also up-to-date on the latest technologies. For example, the private investigation agency, Haywood Hunt and Associates Inc (www.haywoodhunt.ca) has a section of their website dedicated to social media services such as: Online & In Depth Social Media Research, Public Database Inquiries, Digital Footprint Investigations, Fact Finding and Vetting, Online Activity Monitoring, Asset Tracking, Accessing Deleted Information, Surveillance, and Location Tracking. These types of agencies utilize social media in their investigations and surveillance in similar ways that police officials do. Together, law enforcement continues its fight against crime by adapting to new technologies as they become available.
So this is my thoughts on it, and I hope someone will share their opinions as well. Do you think it's a good thing that law enforcement can use social media?