Not even criminals are able to stay away from social media.
In a day and age when everybody and everything manages to end up on the Internet, even those that commit crimes have made the mistake of leaving a digital information trail that has allowed law enforcement officials to gather all of the evidence they needed to make an arrest.
A story went viral last week on, of all places, Facebook about a Pennsylvania man that reposted his wanted photo to his page to taunt officers. When the local law enforcement agency created a fake profile of an attractive woman who wanted to meet him, he couldn’t resist.
He was arrested 45 minutes later.
Manteca Police officers haven’t had that kind of luck, but they have been able to use Facebook and other social media outlets to gather intelligence and even make several cases against people that didn’t know they were watching.
“I think that if we didn’t look into the various social medias, we’d be passing up an opportunity to really find out some information that’s available almost instantly,” Manteca Police Department Sergeant Jodie Estarziau said. “We’ve been able to solve several cases using the Internet, and it’s a valuable tool for our detectives. Somebody can post something on the West Coast and it’ll end up on the East Coast a second later. That’s a powerful communication tool.”
And it’s been a valuable tool for specialized units that rely on intelligence to operate.
Something as simple as a posted photo can help Manteca’s gang officers and street crimes unit know of somebody that they weren’t previously aware of, or let them know that a criminal they’ve been searching for is in town.
Photo evidence is required in order to register somebody as a gang member and a Facebook photo showing off a fresh tattoo can give detectives everything that they need in order to make that designation.
Currently the department uses a separate system to notify the public of major events that are taking place in the community. Nixle, which is used only by law enforcement and local government agencies, can send out a mass text, phone call or email simultaneously for disaster notification and security updates.
Maintaining individual social media profiles, Estarziau said, takes a lot of time and manpower, and might be something that the department moves to in the future if the resources become available.
“We would like to get more involved on the social media front,” she said. “But it takes a lot of resources to keep those accounts updated. It’s difficult to have somebody man and oversee that the way that it requires.
“Nixle works well, and we encourage people to sign up.”