Crime and Social Media
QUINCY, Il. —
Social media. Just a decade ago, only a small percentage of people used MySpace or Facebook.
Texting on a T9 keyboard was still a 99-cent per text luxury. Two decades ago, it didn't even exist.
Fast forward to 2017.
Two-thirds of Americans use social media to share content. That's 65 percent according to Pew Research.
Some good, some bad. Some may argue there's too much bad.
But is crime really going up or is it being shared more?
Danielle Thompson-Saines of Quincy thinks crime is being shared more often than it can be verified.
"It seems like social media is a place for people to have hearsay. To banter about things they've heard. But no tips are coming forward," explained Thompson-Saines.
Harrison Clarke also lives in Quincy and says the answer is a little bit of both – that crime is going up and it is being shared more on social media.
Steve Hall doesn’t use social media but notices crime often on T.V.
"I'm very limited to my internet but I see it on TV all the time," said Hall, a Quincy resident.
Tre Bradley disagrees.
"I don't really think it's going up at all," said Bradley.
Adams County Sheriff Brian Vonderhaar thinks utilizing social media to report crime is a “catch 22”.
"I do feel like crime is going up but also because of social media, that information is getting shared more now than it ever has before," said Vonderhaar.
Almost everyone has a camera phone and uses social media. So when a crime happens, it's only natural for bystanders to post it online. But is it hurtful or helpful?
"Helpful in the point that there is more information out there and maybe there's a crime that occurred somewhere and you have more people coming forward. It’s also an easy way for people to put out misinformation," Vonderhaar explained.
Depending on how you look at it social media, the answer changes.
"So even though I believe it's going up; it may not be going up as fast as people may think," said Vonderhaar.
Yet, the Adams Co. Sheriff warns of something even worse. Something that social media is a breeding ground for.
"Rumors. That all of a sudden once it's shared through social media, people almost think it becomes fact when in reality it can be the furthest from the truth. Be careful of what you read on social media. I think it's a really good tool but not everything you read is factual," warned Vonderhaar.
Although law enforcement does utilize social media, they still look at crimes face value.
"We use social media more now than we ever have before because suspects sometimes do share stuff on social media. It has in some ways made our jobs easier as far as investigating certain crimes," Vonderhaar said.
He also urges people to be smart about what they post.
"Be careful as far as victims themselves. I know a lot of people like to share a lot of stuff on social media. It's also a good tool for the bad guys themselves. If you're posting that you're going to be on vacation or going out of town or hey I'm at a restaurant and had a really good meal. That's also an open invitation for people realizing that house is empty," explained Vonderhaar.
Whether you think crime has gone up or down, and if social media is helpful or hurtful, think twice before you post.
"Be careful what you put out there...understanding that a lot of people can see exactly where you're at," Vonderhaar concluded.
Last but not least, social media posts can be used against you in court.