Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about social media helping out law enforcement. Facebook has been used as a tool to find missing children and to solve open cases. Just last month, Virginia State Police used it’s Facebook page to post an AMBER Alert for Brittany Mae Smith and her suspected abductor, Jeffery Easley. Through this page they were able to make updates as they found any, and all followers of Virginia State Police’s Facebook page would receive them. In the following days, the page received over 9,000 likes. Days later, both Brittany and Jeffery were found alive after a woman recognized the two. Facebook allowed the case to extend far beyond the state’s borders – Brittany was spotted in California.
The global, immediate, and inexpensive power of technology and social media has led several police departments and individuals to set up pages in search of missing individuals. Two months ago another person, Joe Sjoberg, went missing and his family set up a Facebook group to aid in the search. The group has over 12,000 followers with many who are actively helping in the search for Joe.
“Social media harnesses all of the characteristics necessary for the search of missing people – not only is it inexpensive and immediate, it also has the power to engage a community and have them spread the message.”
One of six missing children are located because someone recognizes them from a photograph. With the 500 million active users on Facebook, that “one of six” can become two, or even three of six. Social media harnesses all of the characteristics necessary for the search of missing people – not only is it inexpensive and immediate, it also has the power to engage a community and have them spread the message. It’s exponential; you can receive an update, send it to all your friends, and they can send it to all their friends, and they can…
Due to all of this, AMBER Alerts has recently set up state-specific Facebook pages which users will be able to “like” in order to receive updates to their news feeds. Though at the moment the pages are only for the 50 states, for the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and for the U.S. Virgin Islands, there are efforts to make the program global.