Friday, December 20, 2013

SHERIFF’S OFFICE- Using Social Media to Catch Crooks

In a recent press release, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has pointed out three incidents where social media, YouTube specifically, has helped it to apprehend suspects in three crimes.

  1. A November 5 case where suspects were seen on camera using stolen credit cards at the Seattle Premium Mall. After publishing the video on YouTube, the Sheriff’s Office received several tips that led to the apprehension of a 32 year-old Granite Falls man. The Sheriff’s Office is currently looking for 26 year-old Melissa Linder, who is believed to be the female in the video, for forgery, identity theft, and possession of stolen property (
  2. A November 6 incident when two brothers were caught on video stealing various items including guns and ammunition from a home. Within a day of the release of video on YouTube, the Sheriff’s Office received 25 tips that helped it to apprehend the older brother. This case has been referred to the Snohomish County Prosecutors Office with a recommendation of charges of first degree burglary (
  3. The third incident occurred on November 9 when two men assaulted a cab driver and attempted to force him to withdraw cash from an ATM. Tips from the public helped to capture a 27 year-old black male. The Sheriff’s Office is still looking for white male suspect who was seen in the video. This suspect is known to hang out in the area of 164th St near Lynnwood and is believed to live or have friends in the area (

Note: In these early years of social media, the Sheriff’s Office needs to explore ways to effectively use social media in order to enforce the law and prevent crime. The three examples above shows the efforts that the Sheriff’s Office is making to experiment with new technology. In each of the examples, the Sheriff’s Office was able to post the videos in a place where the public could easily see them (the Sheriff’s Office’s YouTube account is . It also used Twitter (@SnoCoSheriff) and Facebook ( as well as traditional media (TV, radio and newspapers) to advertise the video clips.

In addition, in each of the incidents, video was an important element in identifying the suspects and documenting their actions. It also demonstrates that tips from the public are important to enforcing the law and that the Sheriff’s Office takes the tips it receives very seriously.

Social media is an important tool for the Sheriff’s Office to communicate with the public. It leverages the Sheriff’s Office’s ability to communicate as well as giving it the capability to communicate rapidly. Social media provides several methods to contact the public which may become a challenge to manage by the Sheriff’s Office. But in using all available methods, the Sheriff’s Office can ensure the greatest coverage of important information.

We cannot know how the Sheriff’s Office will develop social media in the future as a tool to protect our society from crime. It is important that the Sheriff’s Office continue to use and to grow this new tool to the benefit of all of us.   


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