Police report growing trend in publishing crimes to social media

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Every day, thousands of people log onto social media to live stream and share their lives in real time with the click of a button, but it’s not all family photos and vacations. More and more people are using the platform to share photos and videos of criminal activity.

“We are seeing people that are live streaming various crimes from school fights, to child exploitation, to murder,” said Cpt. Chuck Cohen of Indiana State Police Cyber Crimes.

On Easter Sunday, police say Steve Stephens recorded the moment he shot and killed an elderly man seemingly at random and then posted the entire video on Facebook. The video was shared hundreds of times before Facebook removed the post.

Just last month, Chicago police arrested a group of boys who live streamed a rape of a teen girl on Facebook. Hundreds of people watched the video and no one called the police.

“As we have pretty much everyone carrying a cell phone, all of those cell phones have cameras and video cameras on them and the ability to access social media platforms we increasingly see crimes being live streamed out to the world,” said Cpt. Cohen.

Police say the changing of technology and social media makes it difficult for officers to police and prevent the crimes from being shared.  They have to count on tips from the public to spot and track down the criminals.

“When we get a report of someone streaming criminal behavior online and on social media, our first step is trying to identify that person committing the crime and then locate the individual,” said Cpt. Cohen.

Police say there are two main motivations for people to share these crimes on the internet are recognition and attention. If you see someone sharing criminal activity on your newsfeed, call police right away to report it. Also, take a screenshot or record the video to help officials build a case. You can also report the video to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, instead of sharing the content.