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Grow Your Business Social Media

Crime Busters Embrace Social Media

If you have criminal intent, forgo Facebook . / Credit: Law enforcement patches image via Shutterstock

It's not just prospective customers, partners or employers who may be scanning the social media landscape to glean information about you and your organization. The long arm of the law has joined the party as well, a new survey shows. So if you happen to have criminal intent, this might be a good time to lay low and forgo trolling for "Likes" on Facebook.

A survey of more than 1,200 law enforcement professionals at every levellaw enforcement professionals at every level, including federal agencies,  found that four out of five use various social media platforms to assist in investigations based in rural localities as well as major metropolitan areas. The survey was conducted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an information provider.

Agencies serving smaller populations and with 50 or fewer sworn personnel use social media more, and state agencies tend to use it less (71 percent) than local (82 percent) and federal (81 percent) agencies, the survey found.

[Retailers are Organized Crime's Latest Victim]

Identifying people and locations, discovering criminal activitycriminal activity and locations and gathering evidence are the top activities, while Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used platforms.

Two-thirds of law enforcement officials believe social media helps them solve crimes more quickly, the survey found. Search warrants obtained using social media to establish probable causeprobable cause held up in court 87 percent of the time when challenged, the respondents reported. Close to half of them said they use social media at least weekly.

Most law enforcement use of social media is self-taught, the survey found. Only 10 percent of respondents said they learned how to use social media for investigations through formal training given at their agency.  Lack of access and familiarity are the primary reasons for nonuse — 70 percent of respondents said they are either unable to access social media during the work hours or do not have enough background to use it.

"Investigation and analysis of social media content provides a huge opportunity in terms of crime prevention and offender apprehension," said Samantha Gwinn, a LexisNexis government solutions consultant with 12 years of experience as a crime analyst with local and federal law enforcement agencies. "As law enforcement personnel continue to participate in formal training and gain an increased comfort level with the power and scope of social media, as well as its limitations, the value it provides will continue to rise."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.