Social Media Turns Savvy Citizens Into Super Heroes
According to The Crime Report, "Law enforcement agencies around the country are increasingly reaching out to the public through social networking tools." In addition to being using to disseminate information to the public--and effectively bypassing traditional media in the process--social media has great potential in becoming a powerful tool to assist in fighting crime. Nancy Kolb of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) says social media could be utilized screen potential recruits, reduce dispatching calls and to give frequent updates to the community.
Many civilians, however, have found yet another crime fighting ability of social media: catching criminals.
Although there was much outrage over the news that iPhones and iPads track their users locations, similar technology has been used to retrieve stolen goods. Last month a George Washington University student whose iPad was stolen was able to track its location to an address in Landover, MD. He used Google Earth to obtain a picture of the address and posted it to his Facebook page and tweeted about it. Initially when he reported his findings to the D.C. police, they were dubious--but they ended up retrieving the stolen iPad and returning it to its rightful owner.
In another example, a man whose laptop was stolen was able to track it down and, through the power of crowdsourcing via Twitter, was able to confront the thief and retrieve his property--even though he was thousands of miles away!
Of course it helps if, in addition to having social media smarts, you are dealing with a stupid criminal--like the guy who robbed the home of a Washington Post reporter and posted pictures of himself with his plunder on Facebook using a stolen laptop. The Facebook thief, as he was known for his brief fifteen minutes of infamy, was eventually caught, tried, and sentenced to 44 months in prison.Continued on the next page