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Using Facebook As A Law Enforcement Tool

May 20, 2011, 6:03 PM by Nicole Winters

Using Facebook As A Law Enforcement Tool
We live in a world that has become run by technology and social networking. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are being used for all sorts of reasons by individuals and businesses.

Even law enforcement is logging on to help them identify people, and do their job.

Coming across a fatal accident scene, like this, is a challenge for any law enforcement officer.

"It was upside-down and completely engulfed in flames," Highway Patrol Sergeant Sergeant Steve Swenson said.

What Swenson knew was that someone was inside the vehicle, and he had find out who it was, and notify the family.

"Probably the worst part of this job is to inform a family they've lost a loved one," Swenson said.

But, it had to be done. After finding paperwork inside the car with a name on it, Swenson then turned to Facebook.

"If I could get a picture of the person, and if I could get any contacts for the person any friends or family members this person would have on her Facebook," Swenson said.

And it worked. He was able to find the page of Dana Bliek, the young woman killed in the crash. From there he was able to get the name of her mother and track her down.

"The Sioux Falls Police Department was able to go to the place she was listed at living," Swenson said.

While Swenson says this was the only time he's used a Facebook in this manner, because of the unusual circumstances, he says technology and social networking have changed the way investigators work.

"It’s changed so much, 19 plus years I've been doing this there's information out there that I would never have guessed we were able to get by the touch of a computer screen to figure out who is who," Swenson said.

While he'd rather not have to deliver heartbreaking news, at least there's ways of finding information quickly.

Swenson adds while social networking sites can help them, they can also hurt them. He says sometimes information travels too quickly before police can probably notify family members someone was hurt or killed.

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