Does Instagram Help Local Policing?

Since its invention in 2010, Instagram took off like nobody quite expected, and is now one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Having so many users can be advantageous on various different levels- and not only in the ways the app intended.

Aside from connecting international users and providing a personal platform of photo-documentation, Instagram can also provide vital insight into solving crime.

Are there any benefits for local authorities that use Instagram?

There are numerous ways how local policing can benefit from Instagram. Namely, if a crime is reported, and the local police are unaware of the perpetrators, Instagram can enable the police to search for the perpetrators via the app. Sometimes, this can be done by posting to the police force’s own Instagram account, appealing for witnesses to come forward, or releasing CCTV images for public inspection.

By appealing to the community, police can help raise awareness within the local area, increasing their chances of finding a lead to solve a case. It is common for users to tag their friends and other acquaintances in these police appeal posts, which helps the word to spread where it may otherwise have failed to reach.

The use of social networks to help track down suspects

Even deeper still, a crime that has been reported with known perpetrators may rely on Instagram for information relating to the illegal activity that took place. For example, local police can probably gain access to the message history of potential suspects, to determine whether incriminating information was shared prior to, or following, the occurrence of the crime, While messages can be deleted off the app, there are still ways for the police to access and recover data if necessary.

The police can also track Instagram accounts if they have reason to believe that a certain individual in the local area may be using the app to commit crimes. Examples of this are grooming, where sexual predators may target local school children, and cyber bullying, which is taken very seriously and considered a criminal offence. Police can also set up accounts to lure potential suspects in, which can help with the gathering of evidence.

Ultimately, the communicative aspects of Instagram make it an effective platform for assisting local police forces to solve crimes and keep the community safe. Not only can criminal activity be discovered on Instagram, but locals of towns and cities can also spread the word of a case and help the police in their enquiries. And as most police forces are already popular on social media, mainly because they know how to get likes on Instagram, it makes it even easier for them to do their job. While not every crime can be solved with the help of Instagram, it is certainly an asset to all local police forces and should always be considered when information is needed.