Using social media in crime fighting: the good and the bad - ABC21: Your Weather Authority

Using social media in crime fighting: the good and the bad

Posted: Updated:
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA 21) -

Fort Wayne police say members of the public stepped up with tips that helped catch one of two suspects linked to an armed robbery at a southside liquor store this month.

The use of social media in crime fighting brings to bear tools that can provide benefit, and do harm. 

Both suspects in the January 3rd armed robbery of a Belmont Beverage Store on East Tillman Road are now in custody.

Photos were put out to the public of a crime where one suspect jumped the counter and pushed the clerk down while aiming a gun at her head.

38-year old Greg Garland, as it turns out, was tased and arrested Monday after a police foot chase.

31-year old Eddrell Scott was handcuffed Wednesday night following a struggle with officers.

He was tracked down from a description of a vehicle provided by a citizen. 

Police published the photos in hopes it would generate leads.

"It did, in numbers-- and they were credible tips that led us to a specific person and a specific address," said Fort Wayne Police spokesperson Michael Joyner.

Indeed, SWAT Team members Wednesday afternoon converged on a residence on Brackenridge Street downtown, after getting a tip Scott was inside the place. 

"We almost had him, we missed him by minutes, but we eventually caught up with him. There's anonymous tips that can be provided on our website page, MySpace, Twitter. It's a way for the community to do their part to help law enforcement," said Officer Joyner.

The Auburn Police Department also published photos of a suspected robber wearing a hospital mask leaving a WalMart store.

At last report there were no arrests in that case, but it's getting lots of attention.

The public's role in solving crimes is expanding all the time.

We know that surveillance video is everywhere and so is the influence of social media.

There's a good side to that and a bad side.

A photo and sketch of the suspect in the high profile murders of two Delphi teens-- disseminated through the media-- generated tips and comments recklessly naming people possibly involved in the crime.

One man commented about a particular social media post, saying, "(It) may be defaming and endangering an innocent man. These people could become targets of vigilantes and their pitchforks and torches."

Rusty York, now a criminal justice professor, says when seeing a suspect photo on TV that you recognize, there is a right response.

"Call the police, instead of then making assumptions and putting that on social media and perhaps an innocent person getting involved in this, because that information spreads throughout our community and beyond, " said York, a former Fort Wayne police chief.

In the Delphi case, Indiana State Police urged the public to click on a link to leave tips that only officers could read.

That's a plan that makes sure to avoid social media creating new victims. 

Powered by Frankly