Cops on the Tweet to Solve Crimes and Educate the Public/Huber Heights, Ohio, Police Facebook page Cops on the Tweet to Solve Crimes and Educate the Public/Huber Heights, Ohio, Police Facebook page Design Department

months and nobody knew it."

He calls CrimeDex a "Facebook for cops."

What started in 2001 as an online database has grown into a network for state, local and federal law enforcement, banks and other groups to share data, video and communicate in real time -- much like Facebook or MySpace. "We're building a community with groups that are associated with groups," Hudson said. "The California financial crimes investigators have their own groups. They put their information in the database, and it may be an officer in Massachusetts who discovers he's working the same case as somebody in California."

With CrimeDex, investigators from different agencies or regions can chip in pieces of the puzzle that lead to solving crimes more quickly.

Hudson said on many occasions, a photograph of a crook was uploaded on CrimeDex and law enforcement in another state recognized the subject. "We've connected crimes across the country that nobody knew were connected," he said.

None of the sources for this story was concerned about infringing upon the privacy of subjects profiled on any of the social networking sites. They say using the sites is no different than using traditional media.

"We would never post anything or do anything regarding sensitive information," Schommer said. "If we had a wanted person, we might put their name in something, but that's no different than the newspaper."

Hudson said CrimeDex operates under the premise that law enforcement or anyone else posting on the site shouldn't post any information unless they're willing to make a police report on it. "If you don't feel strongly enough about it to make a police report, we don't want it," he said.

Hudson said sites like CrimeDex are a high-tech wanted poster. Moen likened Web 2.0 to one big electronic neighborhood watch. "When we send out updates or press releases, a lot of people have Facebook right on their cell phones and they'll get a text saying we've done an update, and they go to our Facebook page and check it," he said. "It's amazing to see how connected people are to it."

 

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor