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GCN : December 2013
CRIMINALS SPEND TIME online just like other people. Most don t tip o the police by bragging about a bank robbery on YouTube, as at least one has done, but they do use social media to com- municate and even organize their activities. And police are paying attention. Agencies at all levels of law enforcement are following Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms to keep an eye on known criminals and gang members and to look for signs of criminal activity. But 80 percent of o cers are self-taught when it comes to using social media, accord- ing to a recent survey by LexisNexis, and there is a lot of social media activity to follow. Tools are beginning to emerge that can help police manage the flow of social media tra c and even give them a platform of their own to compare notes and share ideas. LexisNexis Risk Solutions is trying out a tool called Social Media Monitor that will allow police to watch all social media channels to look for signs of criminal activity. As a new feature of the larger LexisNexis Ac- curint for Law Enforcement platform, Social Media Moni- tor lets law enforcement agencies discover risks and threats by leveraging social media. The system can target critical incidents such as gang violence, drug dealing, crimes against children and human tra cking. The program is already being beta tested at several agencies and local police forces across the county. The impetus to create the program came from the survey of 1,200 law enforce- ment o cers that showed that four out of five of them research social media when pursuing cases. And when challenged, the use of social media sites as evidence for search warrants held up in court 87 percent of the time. But without a dedicated social media tool, o cers are on their own when conduct- ing investigations. Social Media Monitor can alert o cers to potential areas of concern and help them identify posts or tweets within specific geographic locations. By entering a few search terms, law enforce- ment personnel are provided with a social canvas within minutes, adding a virtual dimension to traditional public records data. In a recent demonstration, Lex- isNexis o cials showed how monitoring the Twitter feeds of gang members could help them learn code words, drug drops, meeting locations and criminal trends within cities or even larger demographic areas. Social Media Monitor is a Web-based platform with no software to install. It can work within specific geo- graphical or jurisdictional areas and comes with a dashboard that allows of- ficers to filter search results as needed. The program looks to be an elegant way of search- ing the huge ocean of social media and could empower individual o cers as well as whole groups and depart- ments. I plan to follow-up with a full report on how the program is working once lo- cal o cers have some more time with this fascinating piece of emerging technol- ogy. They may have a few success stories to share as well. Meanwhile, one way of- ficers can share information, tips and best practices is with a social media channel of their own. That s the idea behind BlueLine, a social network designed just for police o cers and members of law enforcement. It s the creation of William Bratton, who served as the chief of police for Los Angeles and the commissioner of police for both Boston and New York City. The platform is free to join, though you have to register with a valid depart- ment-issued email address to ensure that you re "on the job." Some of the features of BlueLine include interactive video chat rooms that sup- port up to 12 o cers, screen grabs, photo sharing and instant messaging. Bratton told Mashable that BlueLine is a safe place for cops to share everything from tips to stories to photos. "We re not looking to be Facebook in the sense of posting family pics," Bratton said. "Instead, the goal is to share water-cooler type info, like tips on gear, policing and cop culture." • POLICE GETTING THE TOOLS TO INVESTIGATE VIA SOCIAL MEDIA BY JOHN BREEDEN II EMERGING TECH 34 GCN DECEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM AGENCIES USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR INVESTIGATIONS: Federal 81% Source: LexisNexis State Local 71% 82%