If you are reading this article, chances are you have uncovered crimes on social media or encountered an online situation where you feel you may need to involve the police. If you are at this point, then you should, by all means, get law enforcement’s opinion on whether a criminal act is involved in your situation.
Here are the top 3 things you should know when dealing with the police and potentially criminal acts occurring online or through social media.
- Don’t do anything with the social media account in question
- Always be honest with law enforcement
- Social media crimes take time to investigate
Simply leave the account alone. Don’t delete anything, make any shares, likes, follows or accept friend requests.
What this statement means is that we don’t want you responding to anyone through the social media account in question. Don’t delete any photos or videos, make any shares, likes, follows or accept any friend requests. Just simply leave the account alone. You want to allow the investigating officer the ability to see the recent activity and, in the case of threats or bullying, to allow the officer to see that your child is not doing anything (at least online) to warrant the activity in question.
As much as it feels right to tell the suspect you’re going to “tell the cops,” it doesn’t do law enforcement any good if the suspect or suspects start destroying evidence or deleting their accounts.
Officers want to be able to produce a solid case to the district attorney for filing.
On too many occasions, crimes involving social media have fallen apart in the courtroom because the victim wasn’t honest about all dealings with a suspect. For example, if a teen is complaining that a boy or girl won’t leave them alone, and they swear they’ve only spoken once or twice before with the suspect, it looks awful in front of a jury when the defense attorney produces evidence otherwise. Imagine text messages or messages via social media originating from your child’s account in which they are leading the suspect into inappropriate actions or conversations.
Sometimes, you’ll find the investigating officers will want to speak to your child or teen alone. The reason for this is because if the officer is noticing inconsistencies in the story or the facts of the case aren’t adding up; they’ll want to see if the child will reveal additional information or a different recollection of the events, outside of their parent’s presence.
We’ve seen many times where victims admit to making up a story out of fear of having their parents or significant others become angry with them because of their actions with the suspect.
Please understand that this isn’t to say that the suspect’s actions are okay or excusable because of a questionable history. It’s just that the officers want to be able to produce a solid case to the district attorney for filing, and we don’t want any possibility of a defense attorney finding a way to make the child look bad or responsible for the suspect’s conduct.
[Carrying through with the complaint] helps other children who may be experiencing similar social media crimes.
These type of investigations take time to complete, due to a variety of factors. If your police department is smaller and has limited staffing or resources, there will be a delay in the finishing of your case.
Detectives will need to serve a subpoena on the social media platform and request any and all records for both the suspect and your child. Also, if this case involved individual devices, the detectives may need to take possession of your child’s mobile device or computer, as well as the suspect’s devices. These actions might seem extreme, but it all has to do with the totality of the circumstances and the degree of seriousness of the crimes involved.
Once they have the evidence, they will need to interview the suspect and get a statement from them. Just as important as it is to hear your side of the story, the police want to listen to the suspect’s side of the story. Once that is completed–and again based on the charges being brought forward–the suspect may or may not be arrested at that time.
Regardless of the suspect’s custody status, a court date will eventually come forward. It’s crucial the child attends court and testifies as to what happened. In doing so, the child shows they are strong and that they will not tolerate the actions of the suspect, regardless of who they are. This helps not only their case but other children who may be experiencing similar social media crimes.
Most law enforcement agrees that the process is frustrating, and wishes it could be sped up. However, there are components in the criminal justice system which are simply out of the investigating officer’s control.
If you suspect criminal activity is occurring, please contact your local police or sheriff’s department. The quicker you do, the quicker the investigation can begin, and the faster the suspect’s actions will cease.
As a parent, would you pursue criminal charges against a suspect committing social media crimes against your child online? Let us know in the comments below.
About our guest blogger:
Officer Mike Bires has been a police officer for the past 23 years, having served the people of California with honor, integrity, and pride. After working for three law enforcement agencies in the southern California region, he is now a senior police officer with his current agency. Mike has experience working in assignments such as corrections, patrol, SWAT, bike patrol and the Field Training Officer program. He is currently assigned as a university resource officer for a large university in his community. Connect with him on LinkedIn. Learn more about Guest Blogging for SafeSmartSocial.com