I have always thought that Private Investigators were sleazy peeping toms who spied on others to make money catching people in compromising positions—very useful if you’re the wife of a philandering jerk.
Boy was I off the mark. I attended a presentation by Michele Stuart, an Investigator with her own company, JAG Investigations, Inc in Arizona. From the moment she started her presentation, we were on the edge of our seats. For about 40 minutes, she made us all sit up and listen to what she had to tell us about the challenges and tools of using the internet to conduct investigations and to share with us her impressive knowledge of public records and on-line databases.
With over 18 years of investigative experience behind her, Michele knew a lot about websites that rob your personal information, how to find someone on the internet, and many more informative pieces of information that would help those who use the internet to find people.
As an example, she launched her presentation with “who owns an android phone”, as several of us raised our hands. Followed with “and do you have the flashlight app installed on your androids”? To which several of us (including me!) left our hands up. Apparently by downloading flashlight, and by agreeing to the terms and conditions, we are allowing this little app to secretly take video (and audio), see what numbers we are calling, and many other things you wouldn’t normally think a flashlight app should do. I suddenly felt my phone was ‘dirty’ and I uninstalled flashlight there and then – for more information, take a look here - http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/flashlight./id285281827
Michele also warned us of websites that can do harm to our personal information, and websites that will create fake identities like your virtual buddy, which you can set to ring you and possibly get you away from where you don’t want to be by pretending it’s your friend calling and wants to meet you urgently. A great excuse when you do need to leave without appearing rude. She also told us the best sites to find old addresses, and how to find people you have lost touch with.
Of all the sessions I attended at LEIM, Michele’s was the most entertaining. Her quick fire delivery, rarely pausing for breath, as she just wanted to tell us all she could in her allotted time slot. And tell us she did with much passion and plenty of humor, it was pure entertraining (entertaining training). I will certainly keep her business card handy; I may need her help one day.
Some websites Michele mentioned:
www.jaginvestigations.com – Michele’s Company
http://alibinetwork.com – creates fake identifications
http://www.networksolutions.com/ – here you can find old addresses and email addresses by searching domain names.
Today’s generation of chidren and young adults are computer savvy. They don’t question how to use the internet or how to install/uninstall programs, they just do it, because they know how. They are constantly text messaging, checking Facebook and Twitter, and taking pictures and videos every day and posting them onto social media sites…and the police forces around the country are following suit.
Through use of mobile technologies like smart phones, paper in law enforcement interactions is disappearing. No more filling out lengthy forms. Instead information is loaded from a mobile device directly into a database to be saved and shared and used when needed. Most young people today who join police departments, are technology savvy and actually expect new technologies to be in place.
Use of social media is another innovative way Police are using modern technology. Through social media, police are engaging their communities in information sharing and use the information to develop more effective predictive policing strategies by becoming more aware of criminal activity and hot spots around town.
When I returned to Dublin (Ireland not Ohio) after the LEIM conference, I was delighted to find a story in Ireland’s Daily Mail on Monday 28th May. It was titled – Facebook’s Crime Fight, and it explained how communities, particularly in rural areas of Ireland, are combating the closure of Garda (police) stations by turning to Facebook to help fight crime.
Residents are using the site to monitor suspicious activity while text alerts are also sent out to warn locals about any possible criminal behavior. One particular group in County Meath, launched their Facebook site last year and have said that they feel safer in their homes, and it is helping to solve crimes.
The community and the local Gardai (police service), work together. The Gardai contact the webpage’s administrators about suspicious behavior, and then a warning is posted onto Facebook, to notify the community residents. The text alerts are proving to be very successful to notify Gardai of potential criminal activity and to warn members of the community if there is someone suspicious in the area. Everyone in the area now feels safer, and the community has become vigilant in helping to protect their homes.
Expanded use of social media started because of the cut-backs in the Policing sector—as many as 39 Garda stations will be closed across Ireland by the end of June 2012, and more than 40 stations to be closed in the next round.
Facebook has proven to be successful tool to help communities and police communicate and work together to fight crime by gathering information and sharing it. If using social media helps to make people feel safer and gives them more control over crime in their communities, then this is sure to become the future of fighting crime.
It no longer makes sense to sit back and watch crime happening, or expect that the police alone will take care of crime in our communities—as Sir Robert Peel, is often quoted “the police are the community and the community are the police” – social media gives citizens a powerful tool to work together to prevent crime in their neighborhoods. This will also help to strengthen the relationship between police and the public, and that can only be a good thing.
For more information on on how Social Media is used in Public Safety, check out the International Association of Chiefs of Police website below, and under Topics of Interest, click on Social Media, and it will take you to all the information you need about Social Media used in Law Enforcement, including blog posts, news items of interest from around the country, and a new survey showing the results of the current state of practice of Social Media within the Law Enforcement Community.
More posts from LEIM coming soon…r/Mary