Social media as the new crime-fighter

From the break-in at

Lindsay Lohan


Los Angeles

home posted on


to missing-person


alerts from the

police chief, social media sites are being used to fight crime and make our neighborhoods safer.

A couple from Atlanta rigged their house with cameras, and after a burglary at the home, they posted the surveillance on YouTube. Word spread, several people viewed the video, and eventually, police were able to catch the burglars, according to a

Christian Science Monitor

article. Similarly, video of a break-in at actress Lindsay Lohan's house led to an arrest after the footage was posted on YouTube.


Sheriff's Office website,

, has YouTube videos that can be shared. A free service called "Cyber Visor" sends text messages or e-mails if there is a crime or security concern in your area.

If you live in


, you can follow and interact with your police stations on


and Twitter, where they post updates of crimes, safety tips and even ask the public for help.

Janet Forte, from Miami, is a social media strategist who is using Twitter, Facebook and blogs to blast messages when people go missing. She started doing so after the disappearance of a friend, Lily Aramburo. Forte has thousands of followers on her Twitter account at


Social media can be used not just to report crime, but also to prevent it.

Form a neighborhood watch program

and, instead of the old phone tree, create an online group using


, Yahoo or


, where you can communicate, share information and get to know your neighbors.

Send group messages instantly

with Twitter updates and SMS alerts to check up on people, or if you see suspicious activities.

If some people in your neighborhood watch group are tech-savvy, they could easily add crime maps, which show data on crimes committed in your neighborhood, and a sex offender locater to identify where accused sex offenders are residing.

A great site to search for sexual offenders is,

which allows you to receive e-mail alerts when an offender moves to your area and allows you to send Twitter updates about them.

Social media has also become the first place people check during disasters. In the recent Southern California fires, people checked in with loved ones on Facebook, posted photos on Flickr and posted news reports on Twitter. Your neighborhood watch group could serve as a way to communicate with neighbors and get news updates during some emergency situations.

And of course, follow and fan the

Sun Sentinel

on Facebook and Twitter for news updates on crime and during an emergency.

Seth Liss is's News Community Manager. You may reach him at