You and your family and friends are not the only ones using Facebook and Twitter. Big Brother is also watching. Law enforcement agencies across the country have begun using social media as another resource in their never-ending game of cat and mouse with criminals. Many police departments in larger cities even have an entire department devoted to criminal investigations involving social media.
“They love to talk about themselves”
Why criminals are so willing to voluntarily incriminate themselves using social media requires a psychologist to fully explain, but that they do so is incontrovertible. Lt. Mark Salazar of the Fresno Police Department explains that social media is such a useful tool because criminals love to talk about themselves. “They love to show their gang signs. They love to show who they represent and they shout out pretty loud and clear and we’re there monitoring it.”
Fresno detectives recently tracked down fugitive Jo Jo Chanla using social media. The teenager was a suspect in a shooting involving police officers in Central Fresno. Salazar said it didn’t take a genius to connect the dots, “On Chanla’s Facebook it shows him wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat and on the night of the shooting, he had a Dallas Cowboy hat.”
Clovis, California police cracked the case of a stolen iPad with the help of social media. The suspect took photos of herself and her family that ended up in the iPad owner’s cloud account. The woman eventually turned herself in when she knew she was about to get a knock on her door from the police.
Ty Wood of the Clovis Police Department explains that the officers involved were just doing their job. “We do use social media as an investigative tool. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t.”
Social media is also used by law enforcement agencies in a more traditional sense. Many police departments across the country use Twitter and Facebook to give traffic warnings, talk about pet adoptions, announce events and make public service announcements.