Social media sites help police in criminal cases

Jan 5, 2015 8:14 PM by Angela Musallam

The internet is a popular avenue for criminals to take their business -- so popular -- police are now combing social media sites more frequently to build their cases.

"Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest..."

All are fair game to law enforcement investigating your profile, when there's enough probable cause tying you to a crime.
For the Redding Police Department's property crime investigations unit -- it's Craigslist and Backpage.

"There's times when we'll see stolen property posted on a site like Craigslist and we'll pose as a customer to get that property back."

Sgt. McGinnis says social media has helped his unit arrest many criminals over the years -- the most recent arrest happening just a few weeks ago on Hartnell Avenue.

"We called the person who was posting the stolen property and met with them in a public parking lot, and they were found not only to have the stolen property, but we were able to arrest them for possession of methamphetamine and related paraphernalia."

The legal team representing these social media sites also helps law enforcement during their investigations.

"We've had them preserve evidence for us, other times we've actually figured out through social media companies where certain images and messages were put up on the web."

But like anything, the internet has its own drawbacks.

"People that are engaging in criminal activity can get rid of stolen property quickly, they can distribute drugs more quickly than ever to a larger number of people..."

Sgt. McGinnis says criminals may slip through the cracks once or twice, but posting anonymously and having a private social media account won't protect them from facing charges related to their posts.

"It's a useful tool that way, but it just comes down to what's publicly available to anyone -- we may not know it exists if it's not available to us."

Law enforcement agencies now provide social media training for police to enhance their investigative skills on the internet.


Most Popular