Social media has become a key investigative tool for law enforcement here in North Alabama.
The gunman who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, made anti-Semitic rants on social media before the mass shooting. Huntsville Police tell WZDX they have a pro-active way to find those kind of posts before it’s too late.
It’s common for people who commit violent crimes to leave a trail of disturbing posts on social media.
The Huntsville Police Department have dedicated resources to catch potential and repeat offenders.
“Monitoring some of the top repeat offenders, the top 10 repeat violent offenders. We do that using social media and some software that some of our personnel have,” said Lt. Micheal Johnson.
The social media software is used to pick up on key words. It also zeros-in on online posts during big events.
“Threats that we are looking at in regards to special events, any dignitaries that come and visit our city. That’s what we use it for,” Johnson said.
Even if a threat made online has been deleted, police are still able to retrieve it.
“Some of these social media platforms, we have reached out to and gotten subpoena and warrants and retrieved evidentry information for some of the crimes that we’ve investigated before,” he said.
Officers say social media is a vital part during investigations, to take down notorious criminals in the area.
“There’s lots of evidence that these criminals leave behind, they also forecast what they’re going to do next. We’re talking about repeat offenders, these are individuals that repeat their crimes over and over and they have and organization, they have other criminals involved with them, so social media does play a big role in helping dismantle some of them,” Johnson explained.
Huntsville Police said they also rely on the public to report hate speech and other threats made online.