As technology continues to change, police and investigations personnel have to alter the ways in which they fight crime. Oxford Police Department (OPD) is no exception.
OPD made its first arrests through use of a Facebook.com page Dec. 31, 2009.
According to Detective Geoff Robinson, a warrant was served and arrests were made after a Facebook user recognized three men in a store security video posted on the department’s Facebook page.
According to police reports, Miami University sophomore Storm Billingsley, first-year Rodney Shaw Jr. and his brother Malcolm Shaw were taped stealing $150 worth of cigars from United Dairy Farmers on High Street. The video was posted to OPD’s fan page on Facebook in hopes someone would identify them.
Robinson said the subject who identified the men was trying to report another crime and found the Facebook page through OPD’s Web site. When the subject reached the page, the men in the photos were quickly recognizable, according to Robinson.
According to police reports, a search warrant was issued, which allowed police to enter Rodney Shaw and Billingsley’s residence at 231 W. Collins St.
When police searched the home they reportedly found drugs and drug paraphernalia, including a marijuana vaporizer, a grinder with marijuana residue, two baggies of marijuana and two small digital scales in Billingsley’s room. Officers also reportedly found cigar tip wrappers allegedly from the stolen merchandise.
In addition, officers found an active warrant from Fairfield Police Department for Rodney Shaw due to failure to appear in court for a charge of driving under the influence.
Billingsley was charged with drug abuse, drug paraphernalia and theft. Rodney Shaw received charges for having an active arrest warrant and theft. Malcolm Shaw was charged with theft.
Robinson credited the use of Facebook for these arrests and said he believes there may be more in the future as the number of fans continues to grow rapidly.
“The more people we can get to check out our page, the easier it becomes to dispense information,” Robinson said.
While the page is currently used to display specific types of information, Robinson said more uses may develop and new Web resources may be used as technology continues to evolve.
“Right now it’s just things we have pictures and videos of,” Robinson said.
According to Robinson, OPD does not have special access to Facebook, only the regular functions of a fan page. Fans of OPD, or anyone else on Facebook, do not have to worry that police can see blocked portions of profiles and other private information without their consent.
Robinson said in cases of online harassment via Facebook, a search warrant must be obtained and signed by a judge before it is sent to Facebook to gain access to a suspect’s profile.
According to Robinson, if there is some form of harassment occurring online victims should not delete the messages because they can become lost.
“They (Facebook) don’t maintain records as long as everybody thinks they do,” Robinson said.
Miami University senior Michael Deinlein has concerns about police using Facebook.
“I don’t exactly like it, but I’m not doing anything illegal on my Facebook, so I’m not afraid,” Deinlein said.
According to Deinlein, police in his hometown made fake profiles and befriended high school students to find out where parties were being held. While Deinlein is not concerned about OPD having a fan page and sees the benefits it may have, he said he disagreed with the way officers in his hometown approached the social networking site.
“I don’t find that legitimate at all,” Deinlein said. “There’s a private sphere and a public sphere.”