Following the lead of investigators across the U.S., the Metro Moore County Sheriff’s Department is now using the social media site Facebook to help solve crimes here in Lynchburg.
On July 29, officials posted a screen shot from surveillance tape taken during a theft at the Lynchburg Jiffy Mart with the following comments:
“The Moore County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a theft that occurred on 7/18/2012 in Moore County. The pictures show the suspected person in the case. She was driving a newer black/dark colored Nissan Sentra/Altima vehicle seen in the photos. Anyone with information about this case, or if anyone recognizes the girl or vehicle in the photo, please contact Deputy Shane Taylor or Investigator Mike Rainey with the Moore County Sheriff’s Department @ (931) 759-7323. All calls and tips will be kept anonymous, and are greatly appreciated.”
The following day, a Moore County resident identified the suspect for local investigators.
Two days later, local authorities arrested 34-year-old Chrystal Lyne Perkins of Hillsboro for theft of property.
National Trend Goes Local
It’s a law enforcement trend that’s been going on nationally for some time and yielding information in several different ways.
First, law enforcement posts requests – like the one on the MCSD page – for information and help identifying subjects and gathering evidence in active cases.
For example, officials can use pictures from parties where a crime occurred to look for witnesses at the event.
Profiles can also be used to identify a new suspect and get background information for an already chosen suspect.
Other ways include using social media to scope out crimes before they happen. For as long as social networking sites have been around, pictures of illegal activity such as underage drinking and drug use have appeared on profiles. Law enforcement is not ignoring them.
“It’s amazing the kinds of things people brag about on Facebook,” say MCSD Chief Investigator Mike Rainey.
And a social media security setting won’t prevent law enforcement from accessing your page. Law enforcement can get a warrant or court order to access your information. That information can also be used as evidence against you in a court hearing.
One trend law enforcement hopes to utilize in the future is video gathered by a witness to a crime.
“People are often hesitant to get involved in a crime investigation but a witness that videos a crime can let the evidence speak for itself without feeling as exposed,” says Investigator Rainey. “When it comes to solving crime, a picture really is worth a thousand words.”