Police use social media to catch criminals

Published: Sep. 4, 2012 at 9:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2012 at 10:36 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati Police are getting a little help in their war on crime through social media. Facebook and Myspace are proving to be powerful tools to catch criminals.

Information from social media is gathered at the police department's Real Time Crime Center and Specialist Dawn Keating says sometimes criminals reveal a lot of personal information.

"A lot of people like to brag about what they do," said Keating.

Keating is a pioneer of sorts. She is the first Cincinnati police officer to use social media as a crime fighting tool. Keating says there is a lot of information out there.

"If you yourself have opened any Facebook accounts, Linked-in accounts or any of the other professional sites that are out there your information may pop up," she said. "Police officers may have to dig for it a little bit, but if you're the subject of an investigation, depending on the seriousness of the crime, we'll definitely take our time to find out that information."

Back in 2008 Keating used social media to help Cincinnati police break up a street gang called the North Side Taliban. Using sites like Facebook, Keating was able to identify key gang members. Keating says investigators got help from the University of Cincinnati to sift through mountains of data.

"They built a database for us to use with our gang investigations and other investigations as well to assist in taking a large volume of information and really showing us on a paper graph what we have and who is associated with who or what's associated," she said.

Police routinely go to court to force social media companies to reveal their customers' information. FOX19's legal analyst Mike Allen says the right to privacy doesn't extend to Facebook.

"It's an evolving area of law, but courts have ruled generally that there's no expectation of privacy when someone posts something on Facebook," said Allen.

Allen says even law abiding citizens need to be careful what they post on social media because you never know who may be watching.

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