American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on social media solving crimes

July 8
American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on social media solving crimes:
The power of social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is hard to ignore, and while most people use them as a fun and easy way to interact with people they know, they can sometimes prove useful for detectives who are searching for leads in an investigation.
A recent article in the Advocate detailed how a girl’s post on Instagram — a social networking website that lets people take photos and videos and share them with others — led detectives to a key witness in the case involving a March shooting at a birthday bash in Baker that left three teens dead.
The girl told police she could identify the alleged shooter. With help from a search warrant, detectives were able to look through certain information on her Instagram profile. They could find out if she changed her password and also seek “financial data associated with the account, photos or other uploaded materials that might have been deleted and other registration information.”
Capt. Doug Cain, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police said “people will go on social media and brag about acts that they’ve committed.” He said that if police “have access to it and find it, we’re going to make that part of a case.”
Another example of how social media can assist in an investigation occurred in late April. Investigators with the Louisiana Department of Justice’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit arrested a New Orleans woman “accused of filing a fraudulent tax return in the name of a professional athlete.” She was arrested within one week of investigators obtaining “geolocation information and private messages connected” to her Facebook profile.
According to a survey issued last year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “Eighty-six percent of law enforcement agencies are using social media in criminal investigations, up from 62 percent in 2010.” It also found that more than half use Facebook “to create fake profiles for undercover investigations, which actually is a violation of the website’s terms of use.”
The Louisiana State Police Facebook page has more than 75,000 “likes,” and Cain said that they get tips from other Facebook users that have led to arrests.
As more law enforcement agencies are using social media, more are turning to formal instruction to learn the ins and outs of using the websites. LAwS is a Massachusetts organization that hosts conferences to teach law enforcement how to use and monitor social media websites.
Nancy Kolb, a senior program manager at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said that social media “has really become an integral part of what law enforcement does, both from an investigative standpoint and for community outreach and engagement.”
She’s right, and as long as people keep using social media websites, the more law enforcement will use them as another tool to help solve crimes. Those agencies who aren’t using them to aid in their investigations could be missing out on some key information that could lead to an arrest.

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