Facebook Becoming an Investigation Tool

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Pictures, dates, friends, comments.
Chances are you are one of the millions using Facebook or Twitter everyday, but you aren't the only one. Cops are using social media daily to stop crime.

"Anything that you say of Facebook, Twitter, social media, is the same as saying it to a judge or jury. It will all be allowed in court," explains Parkersburg Police Dept.'s Sgt. Greg Collins.

Just in Ohio, there were three potential school threats made through social media over the weekend.
One of those three who posted were charged with inducing panic.

"We use facebook often during the investigation process and in court, I know we've used it at least once where a person was showing off alleged stolen items," says Sgt. Collins. "It's definitely becoming more of a staple of our investigation and it's becoming a big part of what we do."

Millions are part of social media, every minute and now it's helping link cops to criminals and threats. "We try to look people up, track people, connect people, see kind of what they're doing out there," says Washington County Sheriff's Office's Sgt. Carrie Smithburger.

"A lot of people, in particularly criminals, like to brag and boast and that's a good place for them to do that," continues Sgt. Collins.

Local authorities say it's common to get calls concerning a Facebook or Twitter post that might leave someone concerned and while they say it's often exaggerated on line, they investigate every suspicious or threatening post.

"If you're sitting in a room of friends, and you tell one or all of these friends that you committed a crime, it's no different than if that friend comes to the police and says, 'hey this person just confessed to a crime when we were together the other night," says Collins. And whether the post is public or private, old or new, it's not hard for police to retrieve it.

Search warrants and programs now make it possible to access private accounts, deleted posts and even IP addresses. "It's free information for people to access, there really is nothing that is private once you get on the Internet and start posting stuff about your life," says Sgt. Smithburger. "Anything that you put on a computer, at some point, potentially has capability of being re-brought-up even if you delete it."

Reports of Ohio threats as of Monday 12/17:

In Hamilton County, in southwest Ohio, an 18-year-old man was charged with inducing panic Sunday after a Facebook post said he was sick of the comments about the shooting, and that they made him want to shoot kids himself.

In Springfield, sheriff's deputies planned to provide extra security at Shawnee High School Monday after a student posted on Facebook that he could "do better" than the Friday shooting that left 28 people dead. Deputies questioned him, but he was not charged.

Officials in Willoughby, in northeast Ohio, notified parents of Twitter postings saying a gun and bomb would be brought to a middle school. No evidence was found to substantiate it.

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