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For police social media both a help, hinderance : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
For police social media both a help, hinderance
Montgomery Police urge residents to use caution sharing info online

by John Etheredge


Like people across the nation, many residents of Montgomery's Lakewood Creek West Subdivision are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to communicate with one another.

Use of social media by subdivision residents likely escalated moments after a drive-by shooting occurred in the subdivision at 7:43 a.m. Feb. 11.

But addressing a large gathering of concerned subdivision residents during a meeting at the village police station last Wednesday evening, Village Police Chief Daniel Meyers and Deputy Chief Armando Sanders urged residents to use caution when posting information concerning activities in their neighborhood on social media.

Meyers and Sanders warned residents that criminal suspects are also using social media to contact others and to monitor police and neighborhoods. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Sanders said suspects can monitor police radio dispatches via apps on their smartphones.

"Social media can be our friend, but it can damage things, also," Meyers said.

Sanders noted that recently one subdivision resident posted information on Facebook that police were parked outside his home.

"That's OK, but guess who also now knows that? Every suspect where we are (because of that post)," he said.

As another example, Meyers said a "person of interest" in the drive-by shooting has a girlfriend who had friended some residents on Facebook. Referring to the girlfriend, he said, "So she knows every detail that is going on right now."

Sanders urged residents to handle any information they may have about police activities responsibly and to be wary of Facebook friend requests.

Given the widespread use of social media and smartphones, Sanders said village police are "trying to be tactful" about their continuing investigation.

"We can't tell you where we are going to be-but we are going to be in the area," he said. "We will be out there and we are dedicated to do that."

Sanders added that if residents feel they don't know every detail of the incident or investigation yet "it is by design."

"If you don't hear everything or think we are not paying attention-that means we are being tactful in what we are doing," he said. "Again, we would love to eliminate the problem, but we are not going to do it by playing all of our cards so that everyone knows-including the suspects. Please keep that in mind."

Meyers said in the moments after the shooting he was inundated with requests for information from the media and from residents online.

"Social media becomes like a beast-it runs rampant. I don't have time...people ask me why I didn't post (things) on Facebook, but I was on Frances (Lane) at the crime scene for a while. I don't have time to come back here and type things into Facebook," he said.

Meyers, however, said police did release two press releases after the shooting which were distributed to the Ledger-Sentinel, other media and posted on the village's Facebook page.

Despite their concerns about social media, Sanders said police appreciate the support of village residents in investigating the shooting.

Looking at the standing room crowd in the police station meeting room, Sanders said, "This is a great thing. This incident is not normal for Montgomery and that's why we're all here. That's why it's been taken to this level so you know the commitment we have to you.

"People say we don't live there (on Frances Lane). Well, we live in all of Montgomery. I look at it as if that was my parents house' (that was struck by gunfire). That's how I look at it and that's how we all look at it. This is important to us and we take it seriously," Sanders said.

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