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Police tracking social media to fight crime

Posted at 7:21 PM, Mar 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 19:21:05-04

The Cheektowaga Town Board approved $7,000 in funds needed by the Cheektowaga Police Department to subscribe to a service that monitors social media websites.

The service, Media Sonar Technologies, has been used by the department for three years and Assistant Chief James Speyer says it is worth the money.

"It's like anything," he said.  "An investigation is a matter of putting together different pieces of the puzzle and this is one piece that we use to gather information for our investigations. But we have had success with it."

Speyer couldn't talk specifics on how the programs works, saying it would reveal too much about the methods, but did say it is used for specific investigations and to broadly monitor for threats during particular events like July 4th.

The program is one way the department tries to keep up with a swiftly changing digital world and the criminals who can be found there.

"There's new apps, there's new social media sites, there's new programs that they can use through social media through their cell phone, iPads and different electronic devices," Speyer explained.  "And it's becoming a challenge."

7 Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Florina Altshiler said not only are these programs legal, they're becoming much more common in policing across the country.

"When people put this out there on social media, it's free game for the police to discover and to use against them," she said.  "Committing a crime outside of social media, putting it on social media does not give you a shield.  In fact, it is just creating evidence to be used against you in prosecuting you."