Government Technology

Catching Criminals on Pinterest?

January 2, 2013 By

"Social media is the most recent evolution in communication technology. I don’t think there’s a choice as to whether or not law enforcement uses social media."

So says law enforcement consultant Lauri Stevens in an interview with Government Technology. Stevens, founder of Massachusetts-based LAwS Communications, works with police departments all over the United States and Canada, and feels that while many agencies are getting social media right, there is ample opportunity to improve.

Those with the most successful implementations, according to Stevens, understand that social media can effectively engage citizens as active partners in keeping communities safe. And in a major incident involving the police, an established following on social media can help keep rumors at bay and contribute to a more positive outcome.

Citizens Want to Help, Need Information

A recent international study (PDF) by technology consulting firm Accenture found that 88 percent of citizens want to help the police fight crime. Perhaps more telling, however, is the fact that 84 percent of respondents “feel only minimally informed of local police activities.”

So how can social media help bridge this gap?

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thinbluedba    |    Commented January 3, 2013

I wonder if there are any privacy laws that are being breached? I know in some countries, mug shots get purged after a certain period of time. As we all know, if it's on the internet, it's out there forever.....

Mike Case    |    Commented January 3, 2013

When they engage in criminal activity, criminals give up their right to privacy.

@Mike Case    |    Commented January 3, 2013

I'm not sure what country you're from, but in the US we generally practice the rule of law that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Also, you might want to take into consideration that someone, misguided young person perhaps, does something naughty (steals some silk flowers perchance?) you're saying they should be punished indefinitely for petty larceny. Now, with the maturing of facial recognition technology and a tech saavy potential employer doing a little image search/background check with a comparative analysis of the security photo that was taken of the applicant (misguided youth) several years later and their picture pops up. Whether convicted or not, do you think they'd have a chance at getting that job? There is also the possibility of coercion and if a "criminal" as you so cavalierly describe them was coerced into doing something against their will, they are then out there forever.

@thinblueba    |    Commented January 3, 2013

There is an issue being looked at in the courts not so much about privacy as misappropriation. There are internet based companies trolling wanted poster(or something like that) sites for photos and making money by using peoples image/likeness without their authorization and thus obviously not compensating them either .

Philly Guy    |    Commented January 10, 2013

I began advocating in writing use of social media in gov when it was still more or less in its Stone Age. Philly PD is a nice example of progressive thinking and as importantly progressive *action* on the use of social media and 21st century cyberspace tools like that. Can hardly wait to see more on how that evolves. Go Philly.

Joe    |    Commented January 22, 2013

I believe at some point posting photos of wanted persons will backfire. The laws are not keeping up with the technology. A newspaper was available for a finite period of time to certain people of a certain area. Now we are posting pictures of people who have been charged but not convicted and if they are found not guilty or were wrongly accused that picture will forever be linked to that article about the arrest..... I believe we need to address this issue and update the privacy laws and how police distribute information and the ramifications of it. I truly believe some smart lawyer and innocent person (most aren't) will go after this eventually and it will work its way up the courts....

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