Strategies differ on social media for law enforcement agencies

Facebook used to inform public in Athens case

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More law enforcement agencies across the state are moving toward using social media such as Facebook to interact with the public, but it's a practice Augusta-area agencies haven't yet adopted.

"We have put some thought into it," Aiken County sheriff's Capt. Troy Elwell said, "but we haven't sat down and dedicated the time to start one up and figure out who would manage it."

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office isn't convinced of its worthiness.

"We've got tip lines for that sort of thing," Col. Gary Powell said.

Some law enforcement agencies are using their social media pages to spread the word about wanted suspects and to receive tips from the community.

Athens-Clarke County police benefited from a Facebook page, started about two weeks ago, when an officer was killed and the suspect was on the loose.

"Our hits (on the page) have quadrupled since then," Athens-Clarke Assistant Chief Alan Brown said.

As of Sunday night, the department's Facebook page had nearly 6,500 friends.

A page administrator used it to update the community on suspected locations of Jamie Hood, who was captured Friday night. Funeral and memorial details for the officer he is accused of killing, Senior Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian, were also on the page. One woman contacted the administrator seeking a way to give a quilt she had made to Senior Officer Tony Howard, who police say was seriously wounded by Hood.

Before the Hood incident, the page alerted fans about a man wanted for attempting to sexually assault a UGA student.

"I would encourage (other agencies) to follow," Brown said. "But one problem they'll run into is adequate personnel to answer all the stuff."

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office is considering the idea.

"It's the new era," Elwell said. "Everything is electronic. People would much rather send you an e-mail than call you."

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said that he could see the value in a Facebook page but that the subject has never come up there.

However, local agencies have already moved toward using social media pages in their investigations.

Richmond County sheriff's Capt. Scott Peebles said it helps "gauge the truthfulness of a person."

A Facebook page helped lead to the arrest of one suspect in the Nov. 28 slaying of Samuel Carroll Jr. Pierre Horton, 21, and Desmond Anthony, 23, were charged in the case.

When the man came in for questioning, he told authorities he was a law-abiding, church-going person.

"He wasn't a suspect at first," Peebles said. "Then we went to his Facebook page and saw where he had marijuana for sale a couple of hours before the shooting."

Already knowing the homicide was drug-related, the investigators put several pieces together to name a suspect.

Authorities in Columbia and Aiken counties acknowledge that social media has aided investigations but were unable to discuss specific, ongoing cases.

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Riverman1 03/28/11 - 07:52 am
It's a fantastic concept.

It's a fantastic concept. "Community policing" using the technology available. The back and forth communications involve the public and law enforcement. It can be a two way street pointing out problems on both sides. This only adds to the benefit of putting officers in the community responsive to the residents and vice versa.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/28/11 - 11:48 am
I'm still amazed at what

I'm still amazed at what criminals will post on facebook and myspace...

Evelyn Sharp
Evelyn Sharp 03/28/11 - 12:30 pm
I think it's a great

I think it's a great idea...I'm surprised at some of the things people post on nobody is gonna read it but the intented recipient...sometimes people reveal their dark secrets...Law Enforcement should be able to use whatever tools are available to solve crimes...I say go for it...

Patty-P 03/28/11 - 06:27 pm
They won't be able to use

They won't be able to use that strategy if they advertise it to everyone.

Asitisinaug 03/29/11 - 03:20 am
Riverman1, I couldn't agree

Riverman1, I couldn't agree more. Anything law enforcement and agencies can do to foster a greater appreciation for law enforcement from law abiding citizens and work closely with those in the community who actually care is a very positive communtiy policing. Also, working with social media, you will be generally working with younger individuals and that is sorely needed in law enforcement.

CCSO is generally a leader in areas such as this so I am suprised they are not involved. RCSO needs to immediately implement programs such as this if only staffing and budgets would allow.

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