Fighting crime using social media

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Sergeant Mickey Keaton is a 13-year veteran with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. He has a lot of duties, but his main focus these days is Facebook.

"I live on this page and monitor it almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that we're getting real time information sent where it needs to go, and to ensure that people get the feedback they need in a timely manner."

Approximately 77,000 people follow the Sheriff's Office page and that means a lot of interaction with the public.

"Just like the public in neighborhoods, they're there all day everyday. Just like in social media, they're on line all day everyday. They see way more than we will ever see."

Two weeks ago the public helped nab a guitar thief. Photos posted of stolen guitars from Circle Music on Poplar Avenue led to dozens of tips and a quick arrest.

"Within 12 hours we had the location for the guitar and the MPD had already identified the suspect."

Using social media to catch criminals isn't new to Sgt. Keaton.

"It goes back to 2008 when we were using MySpace to track down more information. We were able to find a picture of the murder suspect on MySpace holding the murder weapon," he said.

Keaton said the things people post tell more about them than they realize.

"It's a photo album of your life so I can find out almost anything out that I need to know about you. I can find out who you are dating. I can find out who you're friends with, where do you live, what kind of car you drive, where you shop."

We asked the sergeant about why people post pictures of themselves with guns, drugs and other illegal activities.

"They want to be known. They want to be cool. They want to be popular and social media provides them a platform."

It not only gives them a platform, but it gives law enforcement a profile.

"That information is crucial to a lot of our investigations."

Their Facebook page isn't just helping to bust criminals in Shelby County.

"We get calls from the MPD detectives, Collierville, even as recently and as far away as the Martin Police Department. They asked to share a picture of an individual; low and behold we did and they were identified via our Facebook so I'm pretty proud of that."

Sgt. Keaton also said the greatest use of the Facebook page is identifying unknown suspects. Once people see the pictures posted, Keaton said sometimes it's only a matter of hours before he has a name, an address or some piece of information that will eventually lead to an arrest.