Social Media Stakeout

The Increase in Social Media Usage by Law Enforcement

police lab

Nowadays it seems like everyone, everywhere is engaged in social media in some way, shape, or form. Users tend to reveal a lot about themselves on these platforms through the words, pictures and videos they choose to post. The reality of this situation is that you can learn a lot about the characteristics of other users, including their sense of humor, interests, style, and in some cases… their involvement in criminal activity.

Well folks, law enforcement has took the bait and caught onto the trend and impact social media is having on our society – infiltrating and cracking down on those who choose to promote their ‘evil deeds’ to the rest of the world.

A quick search of the internet relays a lot of statistical data about how people are utilizing social media platforms – some of which is startling and pretty exposing when you stop and take a look around. Recent 2012 statistics indicate that police departments across the United States (and the world for that matter) have begun to ramp up their social media presence where 4 out of 5 officers are reporting they are actively using social media for investigative purposes. Those numbers stem from a study conducted by Lexis Nexis, who canvassed 1200 officers to gauge how different platforms were utilized.

LexisNexis poster detailing statistics on Law Enforcement's usage of social media

LexisNexis poster detailing statistics on Law Enforcement’s usage of social media

While not all police officer social media usage is created equal, law enforcement agents across the nation are beginning to train their officers and have focused in on using social media platforms to:

  • Issue Police blotters
  • Post ‘Most Wanted’ Posters
  • Provide Sources for Anonymous Tips
  • Conduct Social Media Stakeouts
  • Infiltrate Criminal and Gang-related Networks
  • Notify Users About Missing Persons

Let’s face it; the world is a pretty crazy place, filled with criminals and people who see no problem in blatantly promoting their crimes through social media for everyone to see. The funniest and saddest part about this whole thing is that they probably think that no authority figure is really watching – therefore no consequences will come their way. This couldn’t be farther from the truth as numerous law enforcement agencies are actively monitoring and tracking activity across a multitude of platforms including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Now, I understand that a number of people are probably put-off with the realization that BIG BROTHER is watching, infiltrating our networks, and disguising themselves to fit in… But at the end of the day, law enforcement is just doing their job and adapting to the social media environment similar to any other case investigated on the streets. Social media doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon and something of which shouldn’t be taken for granted. In my opinion, you have the right to post, blog, tweet whatever you want but user beware, someone else is watching and waiting to strike when the irons hot. Put in a different scenario – You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger, give them your name, address, and let them know that you’re going on a 10-day vacation, would you? Yet, posts like this happen so often it’s almost like people forget that they are broadcasting this information not only to their friends but often to criminals who are waiting in the whims and ready and willing to take what you have worked so hard for.

I am still a strong believer that law enforcement is out for the greater good, despite all the recent and negative attention cast throughout the media. With the goal of keeping the peace and providing justice against those who wish to do wrong – I have to say that I am pretty happy that law enforcement has boarded the ever-evolving social media train and positioned themselves to make a positive impact on our society by monitoring and pursuing the often overwhelming activity that is social media.

For more information as to whether or not your local police departments are partaking in social media activity monitoring and influence – I highly suggest checking out the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) Center for Social Media website to gain a glimpse at who might be watching who in your community.

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