Quantcast

How social media is changing police investigations - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How social media is changing police investigations

Posted: Updated:
ST. ALBANS, Vt. -

Lanterns illuminated the night sky over St. Albans' Taylor Park. Friends and family gathered to say goodbye to 17-year-old Logan Newell.

The Georgia teen was found dead inside his car at the St. Albans park and ride Sunday. Police arrived on the scene at 5:42 p.m. Less than five hours later the first "rest in peace" post appeared on his Facebook page.

"It's extremely difficult to compete with the speed in which postings occur and the information that gets shared," St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor said.

Taylor says his department prides itself on making timely death notifications to next of kin. But he says social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are making it harder to keep up.

"It doesn't give us any time at all to plan. We really have to act and sometimes that means we have to go forward and notify the family more quickly than we're comfortable with, but to ensure that we are making the notification and not some social media forum," Taylor said.

Taylor says the online grapevine can also compromise ongoing investigations. In the Newell case, before authorities could determine what killed him, social media was abuzz with fraudulent claims of a drug overdose.

"Anybody can post a hunch or an opinion or a rumor on a Facebook page and ironically people will accept that as fact," Taylor said.

Police could not publicly quash the rumor mill until Monday night when emissions tests proved carbon monoxide from a leaky exhaust killed the teenager.

"We need scientific evidence to back up what we say," Taylor explained.

"In some ways it can help them in their investigations and in some ways it can hinder," said Elaine Young, a digital marketing and social media professor at Champlain College in Burlington.

Young says police must make the shift from trying to control the online message to managing it.

"You can no longer lockdown and just say the media can come to us and we're going to tell you what the facts are. It's now about everybody who is experiencing it, sharing their experience at one time. You cannot control that," Young said.

And when it comes to victim's families-- her advice is to unplug.

"Shut all the stuff down and don't look at it because people will keep talking," Young said. "There will be a group of people who are aware that that's painful and then there is a group of people who just don't have that same filter."

Newell's page now serves as a memorial for friends coping with the tragic loss.

Related Stories:

Georgia, Vt., teen remembered

Police say car problem led to Vt. teen's death

Police: Georgia teen killed by accidental CO poisoning

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Hit and run in Brookfield

    Hit and run in Brookfield

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 8:04 AM EDT2014-09-02 12:04:18 GMT
    Police say a woman was doing donuts in her soon-to-be-ex-husband's driveway in the moments before she caused a crash.
    Police say a woman was doing donuts in her soon-to-be-ex-husband's driveway in the moments before she caused a crash.
  • N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 03:33:55 GMT
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
  • 2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    Monday, September 1 2014 10:15 PM EDT2014-09-02 02:15:25 GMT
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
  • Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:59:03 GMT
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
  • Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:08:26 GMT
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
  • Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:59 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:59:21 GMT
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
  • Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:52 GMT
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
  • Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:32:03 GMT
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.