More and more police departments are using social media for a variety of purposes, from spreading information to catching criminals.
An online survey from LexisNexis Risk Solutions found that four of five law enforcement officials use social media to gather information during investigations, CNN reported
. The most common sites are Facebook and YouTube.
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Using social media has allowed police departments to:
1. Develop a trustworthy relationship and transparent communications with the community
Allowing residents to see a constant presence of police officers on social media provides a feeling of safety and security in their communities as well as the ability to easily communicate with law enforcement if questions or inquiries arise, according to PoliceOne.com
In New York, Twitter users were asked to take photos with cops and tag them with #myNYPD to spread goodwill, according to Entrepreneur
2. Gain control over the department’s reputation
Social media allows police officials to become gatekeepers of information. They can notify citizens of road closings and accidents, share information on awards and honors, and be a resource to release statements on events and occurrences.
3. Provide a forum to answer questions or publish tips
Police see a lot, especially when it comes to unsafe procedures people may use. Blog posts publishing tips on securing a home while vacationing or using a barbeque grill are usable year-round and are helpful for individuals in the community.
4. Spread information quickly.
Social media is a useful tool to warn residents of safety concerns, catch suspects and find missing individuals. Police are edging into live tweeting operations as well, using hashtags such as Prince George’s County Police Department’s #PGPDVice in Maryland, according to Entreprenuer. Pinterest is also being used to post photos of items that are in police custody because they were lost or found.
5. Obtain information on suspects.
People sometimes post incriminating photos and statements on social media that can help police catch the right culprit. According to CNN, once a Facebook post is shared, a person’s privacy is given up, and the information can be shared as evidence. Police have created fake accounts to follow and “friend” suspects online as well. Subpoenas and warrants are also used to obtain social media information directly from the companies that run the websites.
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6. Prevent crime.
By following and tracking gang members on social media, the Cincinnati Police Department located specific places and certain members involved, preventing violence from starting, WXIX-TV reported
7. Increase transparency
In a controversial play by Dallas Police Chief David Brown, employee names and the reason why they were fired were tweeted to increase transparency, according to Entrepreneur.
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