GovBytes: Is Social Media a Valuable Law Enforcement Tool?

Last Friday, GovTech published a report outlining how law enforcement tools have evolved from wanted posters, to social media outreach. This form of “community policing” has helped officials with finding missing children, reporting suspicious activity, and informing the public about crimes committed in their neighborhood.

Social networking rapidly has become a valuable intelligence-gathering tool for law enforcement agencies, as well as a source of evidence for defense and prosecution personnel who search Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or YouTube videos seeking to discredit witnesses, establish law enforcement bias, track down evidence or establish associations between gang members. Often, perpetrators brag about their crimes on social networks, and child pornographers and sexual predators have been located and apprehended as a result of their online activities.

While cops realize that social media cannot replace traditional forms of police work, they have been working to integrate this technology into their investigations. As social media becomes a bigger communication tool, they believe it is necessary to have a presence on these platforms.

However, due to the nature of social media, these websites can also be a hindrance to law enforcement. This was seen over the summer in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, when social media was used to organize flash mob violence. Additionally, the broadcast of some officer’s actions posted to YouTube have received many negative comments and feedback, such as the display at Occupy UC Davis over the past couple of weeks.

Is social media a valuable law enforcement tool?

How Social Media Is Changing Law Enforcement


“GovBytes” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with Government Technology. If you see great a story on Gov Tech and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected]

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Leonard Sipes

Successful community correctional programs depend upon a working partnership with the media. Bad media relations will impede progress and undermine your ability to reach the public. In governmental public relations, the public’s trust and respect are everything. Without it, nothing good will happen. To get it, you need the media. To get media and public support, you need social media.http://leonardsipes.com/media-relations-and-the-criminal-justice-system/