Facebook is the most popular social media site according to a study published in January 2015. Most people use the site for activities such as connecting with faraway family and friends, meeting new people, or playing games. Increasingly, however, Facebook is being used to solve crimes or catch suspects.
In New York, a woman who survived domestic violence is hoping that Facebook will be a tool for law enforcement, in their pursuit of her now ex-boyfriend who is on the run, in an attempt to escape the charges and lawsuit pending against him. She posted pictures of herself following the beating she endured, along with pleas for anyone who knew his whereabouts to phone the police immediately.
Facebook is also a place where the loved ones of a cold case homicide victim can look for justice. A cold case is defined as any case, in which the investigative leads have been exhausted. This can happen in a case after just a few months. Social media, however, is breathing new life into these stuck investigations. Los Angeles County, where nearly half of murders go unsolved, has created its own Facebook community around the issue, in hopes of closing more cases.
Facebook is also being used to solve crimes or catch suspects wanted for less serious offenses. Game wardens in Oklahoma created their own Facebook page, separate from the one maintained by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Internet audience the page allows them to access, has helped them catch dozens of criminals. Recently, Facebook proved vital in solving a case of deer beheading. Two deer were found on private property with only their heads removed. Lt. James Edwards, Jr., an Oklahoma game warden, said that these particular poachers were only after “the thing that they could put on a wall and say ‘look at what I did’.” With the help of Facebook tipsters the agency managed to track down the one adult and one juvenile responsible. Both had their hunting licenses revoked for 10 years.
There are numerous cases in which criminals have been apprehended through updating their Facebook status and thereby disclosing their location. From New York to Utah, police departments are catching people wanted for crimes as minor as gas siphoning to breaches as serious as booby-trapping a popular hiking trail.
Recently, in Nebraska, 19-year-old Michael D Brown escaped from custody twice within weeks. The first time officers used his social media footprint to track him. After his second escape, they were about to get a warrant to follow his social media activity, but a tip made that unnecessary. Brown now faces additional felony charges for escape and failure to appear in court, as well as his previous charges for burglary and theft.
Social media sites like Facebook are being used to solve crimes or catch suspects, with greater success, as more people partake of the Internet’s power to connect the human race. This trend will only increase as the years pass. Would be crooks should be aware, the long arm of the law now has a set of prosthetic cyber fingers with which to reach out and grab them.
By Martina Robinson
Pew Research Center: While Facebook remains the most popular site, other platforms see higher rates of growth
Alexandra Rose Johnson’s Story
JournalStar: Nebraska jail escapee’s Facebook status: Busted
Mashable: 8 Dumb Criminals Caught Through Facebook
KSWO: Game wardens take to Facebook to solve crimes
The Daily Beast: How Long Can a ‘Terrifying Psycho’ Outrun All of Facebook?
Top Image Courtesy of English106’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Dan Farber’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License