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Police turn to social media to combat crime

Thursday - 4/25/2013, 5:29am  ET

WASHINGTON - Criminals have become pretty good at using social media to steal money and commit other crimes, but now law enforcement officials are using social media to catch crooks.

"A lot of folks are just naive as to how much information is actually out there," says Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

That's the case for the crooks too, says Chapman. His department is now working with an Ashburn, Va.-based social media company called Connected to the Case.

"They're able to go in through certain capabilities and be able to scour Facebook for people that are connected to people that we may be looking for and that helps us hone (sic) in on the suspects," Chapman says.

That information, from Facebook and Twitter, is available in public forums where police do not need a search warrant of any kind.

Social media has been used for years in high-profile cases, but Chapman says investigators are now applying it to more everyday crimes.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Department just caught Cleon Williams, 43. He was wanted for his alleged involvement in a check fraud scheme that stole money from other people's bank accounts.

Williams was tracked to Philadelphia where he was arrested on April 18.

Crowd Sourced Investigations, which runs Connected to a Case, says the company also can be effective in locating missing children or tracking down sex offenders.

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