Indianapolis News and Headlines


Source: Police failing on social media tips

Posted at 4:51 PM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 22:04:22-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Local police agencies are “behind the curve” when it comes to handling incoming tips on social media sites, according to a former law enforcement source who spoke with Call 6 Investigates on condition of anonymity.

The source contacted Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney saying he used Twitter to contact multiple law enforcement agencies with information about a wanted felon, but no one responded, including Indianapolis Metro Police, Carmel Police, FBI and Crime Stoppers.

“The lack of response shows me that law enforcement is behind the curve,” said the source. “Law enforcement needs to recognize that social media is a valuable source of incoming information and not just a way to publicize their own Information.”

Steve DuBois, coordinator with Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana, said they try not to communicate with people through social media because Crime Stoppers is supposed to be anonymous.

“Facebook and Twitter can be subpoenaed and hacked, so we really discourage people from using Facebook or Twitter to tip, because they’re not secure platforms and we can’t keep them anonymous,” said DuBois. “In fact, we’ll delete posts because we don’t want to remember a particular tip with a particular person.  It sounds a little cold, but this program’s bedrock is to keep people anonymous.”

DuBois said the preferred method is to call their tip line at 317-262-TIPS, or submit a tip through the secure forms on their website and new app, P3Tips.

DuBois acknowledged many people, especially young people, prefer to use social media rather than make a phone call.

“That’s how the young kids do it,” said DuBois. “They’re down there looking at their phone. That’s how they communicate.”

Plainfield Police said Monday they are being flooded with Facebook messages about threats to the schools, mall and movie theater.

“We have just been inundated with so many private messages, we’re not able to sift through those immediately, and we want to make sure if you do have a good tip it goes directly to the investigating officer,” said Capt. Jill Lees, who encouraged people to call their non-emergency number at 317-839-8700.  “It’s a slow, tedious process and people think we can solve things within a few hours or a day or two.”

Carmel Police spokesperson Lt. Joe Bickel told Call 6 Investigates it is their policy to pass along social media tips on unsolved crimes to their investigative division or the lead detective on the case.

A former law enforcement officer told Call 6 Investigates while police departments may have preferred methods, they are missing potentially valuable information on social media.

“At least they could have responded saying, "call us at (this number)" but instead, they did nothing,” said the source.

IMPD and the FBI declined to be interviewed for this story.

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