With the explosion of Twitter and other social media sites, I have often wondered why people have felt the need to share every aspect of their personal lives online. I figured maybe people just want to brag about being out to dinner or a Hawaiian vacation. Many of us in the crime prevention field believe that we, as a society, are sharing too much personal information as the social media revolution continues to unfold.
Then, about a month ago, a Mesa Arizona man said he believed his tweets that his family was "preparing to head out of town” or had "another 10 hours of driving ahead" or had finally "made it to Kansas City" were the clues that burglars needed to rob his house.
I still have concerns about the number of people who don’t take TMI (too much information) to heart but I ponder a new question today. If social media sites can help the criminals, can the “good guys” Twitter crime way?
Police departments and Neighborhood Watch groups are starting to recognize the utility of social media sites as another crime prevention tool. Just think about it. If we sign up to our watch group’s designated social media site, we can give our neighbors instant access to information that may make a difference between being victimized and escaping unscathed. One tweet to your neighbors about a strange person peering into a neighbor’s house in the area or a post on Facebook about an attempted child abduction can instantly put hundreds of your neighbors on alert and get them all working together to help law enforcement apprehend the suspects.
I know there are still many out there who are refusing to join the social media revolution, but with law enforcement personnel being strained by budget cuts and the struggling economy keeping us at home more often, embracing online networks as prevention tools may help us form a deeper connection with our neighbors and local law enforcement while helping to prevent crime.
If you haven’t asked how you can prevent crime and get involved in your community, start now. You can get all the information you need on the National Crime Prevention Council’s website.