If you spend any amount of time surfing the web, you’ve probably read stories about people who were arrested due to crimes that they either implied or blatantly referenced on the internet. There are wives who have attempted to hire a hit on their husbands via Facebook and people who have sent bully threats over Twitter. Their arrests in response to their postings proves that when it comes to the things that are talked about in social media, there are a whole lot more folks than your “friends” and “followers” who are paying attention.
Obviously, this would include the police.
As a matter of fact, a recent report has revealed that there are currently more than 40 different police departments across the country (including the ones in Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Tucson) that are using YouTube as a way of reaching out to the public to get information on criminals that are at large.
Apparently, it is working quite well too. According to the Philadelphia Police Station, YouTube has played a significant role in solving approximately 85 cases since February 2011 thanks to the ever- growing popularity of their “Video Villains” online program. It actually posts surveillance videos that are connected to unsolved crimes as a way to get tips from the people who view them.
The Kansas City Police Department has also experienced great success. They currently have 46 videos up on their YouTube channel and they have been able to solve several robbery-related crimes by using this method.
A part of the reason why YouTube has become so beneficial is because there used to be a time when public officials had to rely on shows like America’s Most Wanted, bounty hunter commercials and billboards or Amber Alerts to get the word out to people to be on the lookout. But as we all know, when it comes to a crime that has been committed, every second matters. Now, thanks to YouTube, footage can be posted for the sake of immediate access to viewers.
The Tucson Police Department found it helpful in their search of a young boy. In times past, they would have to burn a CD or DVD (which also takes up time) to get the message out about this kind of emergency. But thanks to YouTube, a surveillance video and two 911 audio calls were able to reach masses of people simultaneously.
For this same reason, police stations are also starting to rely more and more on Twitter as well. By posting an announcement about a crime recently committed, along with information that will help to catch the person or people involved, individuals are able to immediately be on alert and retweet the announcement to their own personal “followers” as well. As the Sacramento Police Department Sergeant Andrew Pettit stated, it’s definitely a form of communication that is viral. And beneficial.
Indeed, gone are the days when social media was mostly used for entertainment purposes or watching videos was simply about converting a song on YouTube to MP3. While YouTube, Twitter and Facebook may been seen as “fun and games” to some, when it comes to cracking down on criminals across the country, for a growing number of police departments, logging in is all in a day’s work.