Social Media Plays Big Part In Criminal Investigations

During the Boston Marathon bombings information and pictures traveled like wildfire through social media.

The same thing happened when the FBI released photos of the two suspects. They were shared on Facebook over and over, possibly helping investigators zero in on the bad guys. The power that social media is having over society is not something the Wichita Falls Police Department could ignore.

"A lot of people are busy and they don't watch the news or read the newspapers but they do get online and see the days events and events and see what happens," said Sgt... John Spragins, the public information officer of the WFPD.

A Texoma resident agrees. He says, "You're going to reach a larger group of people. People my age are more likely to respond to social media than they were if they saw something on TV. A lot of people my age don't even watch TV anymore so social media would be a good way to contact those people."

That's why Spragins spends up to 50% of his time filtering information out to the public using a system they implemented recently called Nixle. Spragins can type alerts, safety tips and even attach pictures into the program and with the click of a button the information gets sent out to the WFPD's Facebook page. You could even receive the alert as a text message if you sign up for the program.

"I think it's definitely a good idea. People get involved and they're helping the police department," said a Wichita Falls resident.

But Spragins says social media can also become the bad guy in a criminal investigation if people start using it to spread rumors. That's also why some Texomans don't trust it.

"We have a lot of false information going out there at one time. Even if they're putting pictures and things like that could hinder a criminal investigation if it was not the correct information being put out there," said Spragins.

Crime Stoppers has also started a Facebook page in hopes of sharing information about criminal investigations with even more people. To find out how you can register for the WFPD's alert system.

If you want to sign up for the Nixle alert system you can do it by clicking on any of these links: 

Tanya De Jesus, Newschannel 6