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Social media becoming critical tool for local law enforcement

Published: Mar. 22, 2019 at 10:23 PM CDT
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TRI-STATE (WFIE) - For many, social media apps are the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing you look at before bed.

Now more than ever, law enforcement agencies are using social networks as a crime fighting tool. Departments across the world are evolving their strategies online.

As long as you type it, for police it becomes real.

“It’s hard to say you didn’t do it when you typed it," Posey County Sheriff Tom Latham said.

Sheriff Latham emphasized how social media posts have lead to more accurate charges and can be easy evidence in court.

The Sheriff brought up a case in Griffin where social media played a role in a recent arrest.

Deputies caught and arrested a man selling marijuana to a 13 year old.

The evidence? The buys were set up on the popular app Snapchat.

“When you have something good, someone is going to utilize it for something bad," Sheriff Latham said.

Deputies say the Griffin mom of the young teen pretended to be her son on the app. Communicating with the dealer, she set up the drug buy herself and called authorities. When the dealer arrived, deputies arrested Joshua Bush for possession and dealing to a minor.

Sheriff Latham says beyond this Snapchat case, social media apps aid his department in investigations tremendously.

It's a similar story across state lines.

“Social media is just huge for us," Owensboro Police’s Andrew Boggess said.

Experts nationwide say because it’s relatively new, statistics aren’t available on how often undercover online operations are carried out. They just know its trending big time.

“Just about all the detectives use it to some degree," Officer Boggess said, adding that OPD’s detectives are self-taught on social media.

“We don’t have a specific unit yet dedicated to social," he explained, "a lot of our detectives are plugged into it and utilize it.”

Boggess says just like departments in smaller and mid-sized cities, the hope is to eventually have a special unit focused on tracking social media daily.

“We haven’t gotten quite that sophisticated yet, but it’s definitely something we’re looking into.”

No matter the technology, police say they still heavily lean on the community for tips and information.

Posey County Sheriff Latham agrees.

“We can’t do it alone. It’s foolish of us to believe that we can do it alone," Latham noted.

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