By Brett Gillin
Police officers and prosecutors are increasingly thankful for two things: Social media and the narcissistic stupidity of criminals. It seems that criminals are becoming more brash with their escapades on a daily basis, and are increasingly taking to the very public venues of social media to brag about their accomplishments. Sometimes, their simple posting on social media is the crime itself!
The Miami Herald recently posted a story revealing how the Miami-Dade Police Department has taken to using social media sources such as Instagram to find and arrest criminals. But, that’s not all. Thanks to these social media postings, police and prosecutors are also able to gather evidence to make sure the charges stick and are properly prosecuted.
Take for example the case of a man nicknamed “Crazy Goat.” The man bearing that unforgettable nickname is a convicted felon, hence is not allowed to own firearms. That didn’t stop him from hopping onto Instagram and snapping a picture of him with a couple loaded guns. It was probably one of the easiest arrests Miami Police have made in a while.
“We encourage the criminals to post their photos and videos online,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told reporters with the Miami Herald. “After all these years, they’re still kind enough to do it.”
A woman named Karla Sanchez was recently arrested on voyeurism charges after snapping a photo at a local gym. The problem was that she posted a picture of an overweight woman in the shower with the caption “The things I see at LA Fitness. WTH!” Well, Karla quickly found out that posting naked pictures of other people without their permission isn’t exactly legal.
Instagram is also glad to help prosecutors and police departments with criminal investigations according to the report, provided they produce the obligatory (and easily attained) search warrant.
Even when the criminal’s social media settings are “private,” police and prosecutors can still attain these pictures. This is exactly what happened to Bryan Yanes and two other teenagers. Police say the three teenagers lured three girls, aged 12, 13, and 14, to a drug and alcohol fueled party which lead to group sex. Yanes, an 18 year old, then allegedly posted pictures of the act on his private Instagram account. Detectives were able to see these photos thanks to a search warrant sent to Instagram’s California headquarters.
“Instagram can feed our narcissism, or at least reflect it,” Alex Jordan, a psychology professor specializing in social media habits, told reporters. “All it takes is a bit of overconfidence to lose sight of the legal and personal risks of posting potentially incriminating photos or other information online.”
The act of police looking to Instagram for evidence of criminal behavior has become so prevalent that the company even has an “Instagram Law Enforcement Response Team,” that answers all requests, subpoenas, court orders and search warrants that have been signed by a judge. Provided that a search warrant is issued, Instagram doesn’t even need to notify the user that law enforcement is requesting their information.
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