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Using social media to help solve crimes

With social media becoming more of a presence in everyday life, does social media help play a role in helping solve crime?

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 9:00 PM

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa - On Tuesday, KIMT shared that Clear Lake Police were asking the public to identify two people in connection with a jet ski theft on Monday. The department put out a post on their Facebook page around 8 p.m. Monday evening, asking for the public's help.

Within 15 minutes of the initial post, officers say those two people were identified, thanks to phone calls and emails from the public.

With social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter having more of a presence in everyday life, and with more and more authorities establishing a presence on such platforms, we wanted to know if social media can make an impact on fighting crime.

Alayna Oleson of Manly considers social media as a valuable tool for law enforcement, and points to the recent Mollie Tibbetts case that got a lot of attention on social media.

"The Mollie Tibbetts thing, that blew up because of social media. There are many people who die, get kidnapped in Iowa, but the first one that comes to mind is Mollie Tibbetts, just because of social media and the impact it had on that especially," Oleson said. "I myself even watch the police scanner just to know what's going on. I see a lot of helpful comments or people sharing posts."

Alyson Fishel of Allison says it can also be a benefit, if being approached in the right way.

"It would be very helpful for the police and to the community if it's done in the right way, in a way to help stop someone from stealing something or breaking in to someone's home, or bullying someone, abusing someone. It can be a huge help, but it can also backfire, and that's kind of where I draw a thin line. As, 'is it really helping the police and the community, or is it not helping them?'

"I've seen it done in the negative way, and people are trying to get their five minutes of fame, and it ends up hurting the person rather than helping them," Fishel adds.

Clear Lake Police Captain Mike Colby says that more information about the case is expected to be released later this week.

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