Social media networks are commonly used by law enforcement agencies for public relations, crime prevention, and to investigate crimes by spying on suspects and individuals on probation or parole.
These techniques are slowly catching on across the country. According to a recent survey of 1,221 federal, state and local law enforcement who use social media, four out of five officials used social media to gather intelligence during investigations. Half said they checked social media at least once a week, and the majority said social media helps them solve crimes faster.
People use social media networks to share various amounts of personal information. Some criminal suspects and convicted felons have been known to share photos and videos of criminal activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
For example, 22-year-old Colleen Chudney was on probation for a 2012 drunk driving offense. Part of the terms of her probation required her to refrain from consuming alcohol. The day after St. Patrick’s Day, Chudney was required to take a breathalyzer test in Westland, Michigan. She passed the test. However, she later went on Facebook and posted information to her profile stating that she had actually been drinking.
“Buzz killer for me, I had to breathalyze this morning and I drank yesterday but I passed thank god lol my [email protected]@.”
Information about the post got back to her probation officer and she must now return to court to discuss her Facebook statements with the judge. She is facing jail time for this probation violation.
So, what techniques are law enforcement officials using to investigate criminal activity on social media networks? A popular tool is social network analysis. It is an analytical tool used commonly by the FBI to map and analyze social media relations. Law enforcement agencies can use the tool to analyze the social media networks of criminal suspects.
SNA provides a systematic approach for investigating large amounts of data on people and relationships. It improves law enforcement effectiveness and efficiency by using complex information regarding individuals socially related to suspects. This often leads to improved clearance rates for many crimes and development of better crime prevention strategies.
SNA, a social science methodology, serves as a valuable tool for law enforcement. While technologically sophisticated, SNA proves easy to employ. Using available data, police departments structure the examination of an offender’s social network in ways not previously possible.
If you are being prosecuted for or are on probation for drunk driving in Washtenaw County, you should refrain from making any statements on social media networks. Such statements may be used against you later by the prosecution or probation officer. Contact Ann Arbor DUI attorney Stacey Washington for legal counseling regarding any drunk driving charge(s) you may be facing.