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Twitter: a New Police Investigative Tool to Solve Crimes

A recent California arson investigation highlights how police are using twitter and other social media websites to solve crimes. The police used Facebook and twitter to get information to the public. The task force set up a twitter handle and a Facebook page to track reports of fires and get tips from the public.

California may be on the leading edge, but Boulder law enforcement may start using similar social media channels to communicate in a young University community.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was one of the first to start using social media to alert the public about fires. It proved very useful during a recent arson investigation. For example, one man looked out his window and saw smoke coming from a nearby carport at 3:00 a.m. on a Monday morning. He found the arson tip hashtag, took a photo with his Smartphone and tweeted his concern.

Before social media, police would hold neighborhood meetings and pass out flyers. Past community outreach was slow and not as efficient at reaching people.

More Investigators Being Trained to Use Social Media

California is not the only place where social media is used to investigate crimes. Investigators in Cincinnati, Ohio found a video of an armed robbery on Facebook when they were looking into a completely different crime. Social media may also be increasingly effective in similar assault cases.

Many state police departments and federal agencies are training investigators on how to use social media to investigate crimes. The police can also archive Twitter or Facebook pages to preserve evidence and prevent any attempts to delete incriminating evidence.

Some people have concerns with police using social media sites to investigate crimes because of privacy issues. Many police departments do not have policies on social media use, and state and federal laws may not yet be keeping up with new and ever-expanding technology.

Police may have to get a search warrant depending upon what social media accounts they want to search and the evidence they believe they will find. However, it is important to recognize that law enforcement agencies are using social media. If accused of a crime that involves social media evidence, you should consult a criminal defense attorney who can help protect your rights and make sure law enforcement officers followed lawful procedures to obtain the evidence.