Study reveals continued use of social media for crime investigations
LexisNexis Risk Solutions has announced the results of a comprehensive study focused on the use of social media by law enforcement for crime investigation and prevention. The study, a follow-up to one conducted in 2012, revealed that social media use remains high -- eight out of 10 law enforcement professionals use it – with the most common use being for crime investigations (63 percent). More than half (51 percent) are using social media for crime prevention activities, with 67 percent agreeing social media is an effective tool for crime anticipation, both up from 2012.
The research also found that the frequency of use is high and on the rise, with a quarter of law enforcement professionals using social media daily and 56 percent using it at least twice a week. The role of social media in investigations will continue to become more mainstream, as 78 percent of current users expect to use it even more in the next year, the study found. Communal, personal sites such as Facebook (93 percent) and YouTube (67 percent) are most frequently used for investigative purposes, followed closely by Twitter, which has increased significantly since 2012 (2012 = 29 percent, 2014 = 50 percent).
Despite widespread use, 52 percent of agencies do not have a formal process governing usage in place, and only 33 percent have someone dedicated solely to monitoring social media and 73 percent believe social media helps solve crimes more quickly.
“The benefits of social media from an information-gathering and community outreach perspective became very evident during the subsequent investigations of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Washington Navy Yard tragedy,” said Rick Graham, law enforcement specialist, LexisNexis Risk Solutions and former chief of detectives for the Jacksonville (FL) Sheriff’s Office. “It is imperative that agencies invest in formal social media investigative tools, provide formal training, develop or amend current policies to ensure investigators and analysts are fully armed to more effectively take advantage of the power social media provides.”
The research, conducted in February 2014, assessed the law enforcement community’s understanding of, proclivity to use and actual use of social media. It also aimed to better understand acceptability thresholds of various types of investigative techniques and current resources and processes being used. The nationwide study was conducted online and solicited feedback from 496 participants at every level of law enforcement -- from rural localities to major metropolitan cities and federal agencies -- producing a comprehensive view of the social media landscape. Respondents are active law enforcement professionals ranging in age, experience and job level.
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