Everyone’s on Facebook these days, even the police. But unless you’re involved in suspicious or illegal activity, there’s no need to worry.
The police mainly search publicly posted information. In the U.S. they can only access private accounts with a court order or civil subpoena.
During emergency situations, Facebook may provide a limited amount of information to help law officials. For example, in the case of a kidnapping, Facebook could tell law officials if the kidnapped person’s account had been accessed recently.
Police also use Facebook to increase communication with the local community in order to keep them safe. Here are some examples of how social media helps law enforcement agencies work smarter.
Police are taking advantage of the high amount of traffic on Facebook tohelp search for wanted criminals. A police department with a fan page can post a status such as, “Police need help identifying a white middle-aged man who robbed a woman at an ATM,” with a link to thesecurity video from the incident. <
With the millions of users on Facebook every day, police can getthis information out in real-time to as many people as possible and provide real-time updates on the
Police Blotters Go Digital
For many years, police stations have kept a record of daily events called a policeblotter. Now, police blotters are going digital. A Facebook Fan Page can be used by a police captain orchief to publish events in real-time in order to provide essential information to the public and mediaoutlets. This gets word out quickly about a developing story.
Gangs commonly use Facebook to communicate and boast about criminal activity.While this helps gang members share information, law enforcement officials have begun to use it totheir advantage. For example, they may create a fake profile to “friend” gang members to gain access tocriminal communications and learn about illegal activities before they occur.
Taking Boasts Seriously
In addition to forming groups, gang members and other criminals may even use social media to boast about recent illegal activities.
For example, New York police recently found suspects related to a fatal beating that took place at a party because the event had been posted on Facebook. One of the arrested suspects actually used Facebook to brag about the murder.
In an emergency situation such as a natural disaster, the police may useFacebook to inform the public about emergency services, dangerous areas, or missing persons. Just likestatuses for “wanted” criminals, these types of alerts can get to a whole town in an instant, providingupdates and resources in real-time to keep the public as informed and safe as possible.