Tech savvy: Facebook tips lead to arrest of Wisconsin man


When trying to find someone, it makes sense to put it somewhere 757 million people check every single day: Facebook.

In the most recent instance of an increasingly common tactic, the Washburn County Sheriff's Office (in Wisconsin) posted photos of a suspect they were looking for to Facebook, asking for help.

The sheriff's office was looking for the 36-year-old in connection with an assault that took place around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, in which the victim ended up in the hospital after a "significant altercation." Authorities said the suspect was intoxicated and had two children – ages 8 and 10 – with him. Their welfare was a concern.

About five hours after the purported incident, Sheriff Terry Dryden posted the suspect's photo to Facebook, asking anyone with information to contact authorities. An hour later they announced he'd been arrested, and credited the arrests to two individuals who called in as a "direct result" of the Facebook post.

"FACE BOOK land does it again," the sheriff's office wrote in an update.

The suspect was taken into custody without incident and is scheduled to be in court Monday.

Social media and crime

A Justice Department report about using social media as a crime-fighting tool noted about 22 percent of time spent on the Internet is at social media sites. And a quarter of those above the age of 65 – a group which isn't considered as tech oriented – are active users of a social media site.

So it makes sense that using social media to broadcast calls for help has become increasingly common among police departments, sheriff's offices and other agencies.

A 2012 LexisNexis study that looked at about 1,200 law enforcement departments found 80 percent of them use social media to assist in investigations. Departments in smaller communities tend to use it at a higher rate than state or local agencies, it said.

Though not all catch on as fast.

The Chicago Police Department – one of the largest in the country – posted a video of suspects to Facebook for the first time ever just two months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It quickly led to an identification, an arrest and charges.

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