By Dan Cole
From creepy stalkers to crime fighters, both sides of crime are using social media to their respective advantage.
Andrea Cowley, a behavioral science major, has repeatedly been on the receiving end of cyber-stalking.
“I’m seriously considering getting rid of my Facebook because of some kid,” Cowley said. “I’ve blocked him, ignored him and told him to leave me alone. He just creates new accounts and harasses me from a new profile.”
Social networking sites like Facebook typically give open access to anyone, and let people present themselves any way they want. Others are lured into false senses of security, said Pauline Wiessner, a University of Utah anthropologist. Having to talk to someone online and not in person provides some sense of anonymity.
But Lt. Arnold Lemmon, from the BYU Police Department, warns against this.
“Be as protective of yourself with social media as you would be on the street,” Lemmon said. “I think what we see is that many students come here with a false sense of security because it is BYU.”
Lemmon urged students to take proactive measures with social media to protect themselves. If students find themselves or friends in situations where online crime is being committed, they are urged to report it immediately to authorities.
Social media can also help protect against crime, however, and has become a crime-solving tool in many cases throughout the country. Because social media users provide information about themselves through these sites, investigators use these profiles to track alleged culprits.
Bobby Tarcea was recently a theft victim while attending the University of Washington, and Facebook helped him regain his stolen items. After a party with his roommates and friends, Tarcea awoke to find his laptop missing. From his friends, he found out there was a woman at the party no one seemed to know. After some detective work, he found a picture of the unknown woman taken at the party and posted it on Facebook, asking if anyone knew her. A friend said the alleged culprit looked like someone they went to high school with and sent him the name. With the name, Tarcea found the person’s Facebook page, phone number and work place.
“Got my laptop back after three days of some ‘Law and Order’ detective work,” Tarcea said. “The look on her face when we walked in was priceless.”