The Rise of Social Media & Crime

Social media sites are getting bigger every year and more new sites are being created.

A good example is Twitter; it grew from 75 million users in 2010 to 175 million in 2011.

As these sites grow, local law enforcement has to grow with them.

"Our main function is to protect and serve our community,” Captain Antonio Gonzalez said.

Captain Antonio Gonzalez with the Houston County Sheriff's Department has been protecting and serving the wiregrass for more than 27 years.

In the decades, he's seen crime go online.

"Crime fighting is crime fighting, old school or new school. Catching the bad guy is catching the bad guy. Learning the techniques is what makes it a little stressful,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez says that stress is because social networking sites can be just as much a tool for the bad guys as it is for law enforcement.

"If they become very proficient we have to be just as proficient if not more,” Gonzalez said

Most police or sheriff's departments have investigators trained in social media techniques to collect information or evidence to be used in court.

"A lot of people have this belief those sites are totally 100% secure and it's truly not,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez says the Houston County Sheriff's office has gotten tips from social networking sites, investigated and made arrests.

"That magic delete button doesn't mean it's gone forever. It may be gone out of sight but it doesn't mean it's out of mind. Out of mind being that chip in that computer,” Gonzalez said.

Captain Gonzalez says the biggest issue they see is sharing inappropriate photos, especially of those under 18.

Sharing those photos could be considered distributing child pornography.

Although that's the biggest problem they see - He says the social media and crime issue is not age discriminatory.

If you see something on social networking sites that indicates someone is committing a crime you should call your local police or sheriff's department.


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