Busted! Police Turn to Social Media to Fight Crime

Ron Koeberer | Aurora | Getty Images

Facebook isn't just for 'friending' anymore. The social network is also being used as a tool to fight crime, according to a recent survey.

Four out of five law enforcement officials use social media to assist in criminal investigations, according to an online survey by LexisNexis.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among the platforms law enforcement uses the most, according to the survey.

Law enforcement is taking to social media because criminals are changing their behavior and using social media to facilitate crime. In response, law enforcement officials are using it to track down criminals and as a predictive policing tool, said Haywood Talcove, CEO of Government Solutions.

"It's a tool and is as valuable as a police cruiser or a handgun," Talcove said.

However, the survey also revealed that there isn't much formal training in social media for law enforcement officials. In fact, 80 percent are self-taught, according to the survey.

"They are teaching themselves on the job or taking what they know on the personal front and trying to apply it on the workfront," said Susan Crandall, director of law enforcement marketing at LexisNexis.

While one would think criminals wouldn't want to post evidence of a crime they commit or plan to commit to a social platform, it's really not that surprising because it's part of human nature to want to share, Talcove said.

"Criminals have that same desire to share and to show-off," he said. "I don't think they can resist using these tools."

And share they do. Talcove said posts, pictures, tweets and other content found on social media is often used as evidence by law enforcement and usually makes the investigation and judicial process much easier.

Social media used as evidence for search warrants holds up in 87 percent of the time when it is challenged, according to the survey.

LexisNexis partnered with PoliceOne.com to survey over 1,200 federal, state and local law enforcement online.

They found that not only did law enforcement find social media to be a key tool in solving crime, but that law officials expect to amp up their use of social platforms in the future. In fact, 83 percent of current users said they expected to use social media more over the next year and 74 percent of those who were not currently using social media to assist in investigations said they intended to begin using it over the next year.

"It's probably just at the beginning of reaching it's full potential," Crandall said. "The more training and the more sophisticated tools law enforcement is trained with, the better they will be at their investigation."

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