With more and more public safety departments turning to social media to stay informed, it is becoming more commonplace for social media to be utilized in actual police work as well. In July, for example, the Boston Police used Twitter and Facebook to track down bicycle thieves, while the Los Angeles Police Department utilized YouTube in an effort to locate criminals that broke into actress Lindsay Lohan’s home in August.
And using social media is becoming a common trend in modern police work. From police in New Zealand using Facebook to catch a burglar, to police in Ohio utilizing social networks to circulate pictures of criminals, social media tools are becoming the modern equivalents of the Post Office wanted poster.
Police are also using the things people post on social networks and blogs as a way to track down law breakers. “We are using this (Facebook) as a crime-fighting tool. It’s becoming pretty common,” said Indiana, Pennsylvania Police Chief William Sutton after his department utilized Facebook photos and videos posted on YouTube to identify out-of-hand party-goers at a post-Super Bowl street gathering last February.
While the latter is a case of what happens when criminals incriminate themselves on social networks, it is clear that social media tools are being used in smart ways by police departments and neighborhood watch groups to make our cities safer.