Social media leads to criminal arrests on Suncoast

Social Media
Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-09 17:16:55-04

Social media is a powerful tool, and these days nearly every law enforcement agency is using it to solve crimes.

What you post is forever and it can be used against you in the court of law.

"Facebook being a public company can be subpoenaed like anyone else," defense attorney Jeff Young says. "What law enforcement or attorneys can do is issue a subpoena for people's accounts where you can get all of the persons information out there."

Here on the suncoast defense attorneys are frequently faced with clients that say a little too much on social media.

"I will occasionally have clients that end up saying some pretty stupid things on social media even to the extent where they even confess," defense attorney Derek Byrd says.

They say it's happening too often. While it poses some issues for defense attorneys, law enforcement is using it to their advantage and catching criminals in the process.

"It's a case where you're looking for some information and a lot of times it's readily available right there," Manatee County Sheriff's Office PIO Dave Bristow says. "That goes from pinging cell phones to checking social media accounts, and there's just a long laundry list of things you can do to aid you in an investigation."

Law enforcement says that Facebook has led to the most arrests nationwide and locally, followed by YouTube.  It's changing the criminal justice system.

"Before maybe someone just told their best friend or told their neighbor so they were publicizing this to one or two people, the chances of that getting back to law enforcement and it becoming an issue in the case was pretty slim," Byrd says. "Now it's been publicized or broadcasted to thousands of people."

So why would anyone incriminate themselves on social media? Psychologists say everyone wants a stage and Facebook gives it to them.

"We sort of have a fake anonymous feeling that gives people strength and courage to do this kind of thing," psychologist Eddy Regnier said.

But when criminals brag about their crimes alone, studies show that it's leading to arrests.

"My advice to everybody when they go on social media is don't post anything that you don't want anyone to see whether it related to criminal charges, family law case or your job," Young said.

If you see some type of crime on social media, law enforcement says first and foremost call 911. Look for descriptive details if they are live streaming like street signs or unique characteristics of that person.