Social Media and Crimes
Katerina MeletisMarch 6th, 2018
Professor G. NkulenuPage 2
Technology has significantly evolved in time and has become a crucial tool used during investigations in many ways. Criminals are using social media applications to entice people for online sales and luring them to a vacant location where they become victims. Investigators have to utilize search warrants and grand jury subpoenas in order to identify the offender behind the posts. Numerous times fictitious accounts are created when the purpose of the communication is premeditated to commit a crime. The Hazel Crest Police Department conducted an investigation on an armed robbery attempt that resulted in a homicide. Craigslist was used to sell a product that lured a person, who had the right to conceal and carry a weapon, to a vacant location where the “seller” attempted to rob him at gunpoint. The buyer then reacted in self-defense where he wounded both offenders. The investigation led the investigators to the offender’s true identity by working backwards with the applications used. Social media applications are being used more and more within crimes. The results of subpoenas and search warrants take time unless exigent circumstance are present.
Today’s society revolves around technology and the internet. As time goes on, both technology and the internet advance and become readily accessible at the tip of a person’s finger. A person’s cell phone has internet access that allows him or her to make a post for it to be seen all over the world in seconds. Once something is posted it is always in cyberspace and can never be permanently deleted. Today’s generation, also known as the millennials, have been raised and taught the use of computers and the internet beginning in elementary school. A large basis of crimes begin with the internet. Often times a victim can be misled or deceived into believing someone is not someone they say they are. An incident of a crime will be placed on an investigator’s desk and he or she will have to work backwards into identifying who the offender is. The use of search warrants, subpoenas, grand jury subpoenas, and letters of preservation become vital during the investigation. Every posts, comment, text message, or phone call a person makes is always time and location stamped between towers or internet sources. Every line of internet has its own identity that can be traced back to which computer, cell phone, or tablet was used. This process is very time consuming and takes patience from all parties involved. Each police department is composed of different departments that function in a different way throughout an investigation. An investigation begins with an initial report taken by the reporting officer on scene. Photographs and evidence are collected by the evidence technician. The process is supervised by a sergeant and once it is completed it is turned over to investigations for the follow up. A common similarity that has been used in crimes is the utilization of the internet and social media. The lengthy process becomes
rewarding when the results return, which allows an investigator to take the offender into custody based upon the evidence and probable cause.
The Village of Hazel Crest has a police department operating with thirty three members when they are fully staffed. The minimum staffing for shifts are three officers for the day shift, five officers for the afternoon shift, and three officers for the midnight shift which includes sergeants as staffing. The department is currently broken down with one chief, two deputy chiefs, one detective sergeant, three detectives, five sergeants, seventeen officers, one community service officer, and one community policing officer. Based on the statistics reported to the Illinois State Police for the Illinois Uniform Crime Reporting Program the Hazel Crest Police Department reported the following crimes for 2016 and 2017: eight criminal sexual assaults, ninety-two robberies, 32 aggravated batteries, 233 burglaries, 481 thefts, 107 stolen motor vehicles, 5 arsons, and 104 drug arrests that were Class A Misdemeanor or above. These statistics do not include juvenile crime statistics. An interview with Detective Matariyeh from the Hazel Crest Police Department who related that several cases go unsolved due to the fact that victims are in fear of retaliation or any harm or further damage done to their property. He further began to explain that in an area where people are classified as career criminals it is very hard to be proactive as the police and harder for citizens to decrease their chances of becoming a victim. There are people who will sit outside of a house and watch the owner’s movements. What time people come in and out, how long the house
is left unoccupied, are there any cameras or alarm systems, or whether or not people have dogs to determine the best time to gain entry and burglarize the residence. Detective Matariyeh explained that he has taken a special interest in juvenile offenders since he is a certified juvenile officer and believe the influence starts at a young age. He elaborated on how difficult it was to help juveniles who are in custody in their teenage years and have “had a record since the age of nine.” While interviewing them he has come to determine several similarities between the juveniles; no father figure whether he is dead, incarcerated, or nonexistent, they are left unattended at home for several hours with multiple siblings, they do not attend school or are sent to alternative, and have no guidance at home. Although Detective Matariyeh continues to try to influence juveniles he comes in contact with to stay in school and on the right track, it is disappointing that some of them are taught at a young age that this is the lifestyle and future they have.
Every person is accountable for every decision that is made in his or her own life that will ultimately determine their path in life. An interview was conducted with Police Officer J. Rollins, who has been a Hazel Crest Police Officer for seven years, who argued that the government should not be responsible in assisting inmates upon their release into society. Officer
Rollins stated, “you can’t be a victim of your own bad decision.” Officer Rollins elaborated by discussing that if a person makes the decision to commit a crime for any reason, gets convicted,
and sentenced to incarceration then it is upon that person to determine if it is lesson learned or the beginning of a career criminal. For example, if a report of a robbery is dispatched, and upon speaking to the complainant it is discovered that he or she was robbed of his or her illegal narcotics. At this point, if you did not make the decision to sell drugs and involve in illegal activity then this crime never would have occurred. Everything that happens is a reaction to every choice a person makes in life. If a person is determined to change and wants to have a positive impact in society then he or she will make the efforts to obtain assistance. A survey conducted with ten active police officers within the Hazel Crest Police Department related that all ten either knew a close friend or family member who had been incarcerated at some point in their life. Those same officers also knew a friend or family member that was re-entered into the system upon their release for another crime. Ex-offenders are often released back into the same environment that they were living in prior to their conviction. An officer can only give advice to someone, but it is up to that person whether he or she follows it or not.
The Hazel Crest Police Department received a call of a gunshot victim/shots fired in 2017 where the victim related that he had been robbed. The investigation began as soon as the call was placed to the 911 dispatch center. The dispatcher related facts of what the victim was saying to the officer’s in-route to the call. The incident stemmed from a Craigslist post that resulted in a harmful
transaction. The victim was an off-duty police officer from a surrounding neighborhood, who like most officers are armed. The first officer on scene arrived and spoke with the victim to receive vital information and broadcasted it over the radio for the assisting officers. The victim related that there was a post on Craigslist for the sale of an Apple MacBook Laptop for a reasonable price. The victim proceeded to explain how in order to display interest in the item a person must contact the seller via text messages or e-mail as it would be stated. The victim began communicating with the seller via text message and agreed to make a sale for an agreed amount. The location of the exchange was set up and agreed upon by both parties. At the exchange the victim was approached with a pistol, which caused him to draw his weapon in self-defense and release multiple shots while he ran to safety. The offender also ran away in an unknown direction and was at large, armed, and dangerous. As more units arrived on scene the crime scene became the most vital piece of the crime that was accessible at that time. The evidence technician arrived and began processing all evidence including photographs, fingerprints, and item collection. All the evidence was collected, documented, and secure within the chain of custody and awaited transport to the Illinois State Crime Lab for testing. Once the scene was cleared and everything was completed the initial officer wrote the report and turned over all details to the investigations unit. The case was then assigned to one particular detective who would then have to investigate the crime and attempt to locate and
identify who the seller behind the Craigslist posting was because that is who the offender is of the armed robbery.
The first detail given was that the victim responded to a post on Craigslist. Each post on Craigslist is identified by an identification number. The first thing the detective had to do was write a letter of preservation to Craigslist in regards to the specific identification number to prevent any loss of evidence due to deleting the account, post, or profile. According to Stephany Stacy, a etter of preservation is define as, “a litigation hold of a written directive advising custodians of certain documents and electronically-stored information to preserve potentially relevant evidence in anticipation of future litigation.” The detective had to write a search warrant to Craigslist in order to obtain any and all identifying information about the post and the creator. According to Professor Nkulenu’s class discussion on February 6th, 2018, a search warrant is defined as a “written order or document issued by a judge or officer upon probable cause; directing or authorizing a law enforcement officer/investigator to make an arrest, search a premise, or carry out some other actions relating to the administration of justice.” The search warrant was written for all subscriber information specific to the identification number and was approved for probable cause and signed by a judge. A copy was sent to Craigslist and the findings were sent to the police department in full detail.
The victim communicated with the seller through his cell phone by sending and receiving text messages. Since the phone was the main source of communication a search warrant needed to be written in order to obtain the messages and which phone was used to communicate with. After the judge signed the warrant for the victim’s cell phone, the results yielded that the phone number used to communicate was the same phone number that was used as contact information on the Craigslist post. The number was confirmed when the results of the search warrant from Craigslist returned. Craigslist also provided the IP Address that was used to make the post on their return information sheet. The investigation needed to be taken a step further in order to determine who the phone number belonged to and the location of the IP Address. Through a basic internet search it was discovered that the IP address for the cellular phone that created the original Craigslist post was owned by Comcast Xfinity Internet Services. A search warrant was then written to Comcast for all the subscriber information that was associated with the IP Address. The information that was returned from Comcast yielded that personal information for the suspect that was involved in setting up the robbery.
The subscriber information became the primary suspect in the robbery as the investigation evolved. A search warrant was conducted on the suspect’s residence in hopes of finding any evidence that could relate to the crime scene at the time of the incident. Specific clothing and
accessories that the victim related the offenders were wearing at the time he was robbed were located inside the residence with blood on them. Due to the details related from the victims the items were recovered by an evidence technician and sent to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for testing. The crime lab would require DNA samples from both the suspect and victim in order to do comparisons and eliminations. As the DNA comes back and matches to the suspect and the victim it puts the suspect at the scene of the crime and having contact with the victim during the time of the robbery. The suspect could not say at this time that he has never met, seen, or had contact with the victim because both of their DNA is on the items that they struggled over. As pieces of the evidence began to come together more of the truth was revealed. Phone records including phone calls and text message and witness cooperation became vital to confirmed facts of the incident. This crime was a premeditated act of violence that should not be taken lightly in any way.
At this time, a felony arrest warrant would be written for the now offender and issued through the court system where the judicial system would take over and be seen for trial. The offender has the right to a lawyer and has the absolutely right to remain silent. During the court process the defense attorney will motion to suppress some evidence in order for it to be removed prior to trial to help their chances of winning a non-guilty verdict. This is where the chain of command for evidence and protocols on obtaining evidence becomes crucial. Any violation of
protocol or violating a person’s Amendment Rights could ultimately determine evidence inadmissible for trial. For this reason, most investigators will obtain evidence through search warrants even when consent is given to prevent any miscommunication or changes in testimony at trial. Any preventative action that could be taken will always be executed especially in heinous crimes to prevent any mistrials.
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All in all, as technology continues to advance the laws and criminal code fight to maintain at the same pace. Certain crimes are used through social media applications because a person may create a fictitious account to lure victims to specific locations where the offenders are setting up an attack or ambush. The use of search warrants and subpoenas become the most vital tool that investigators will use during an investigation. The Hazel Crest Police Department prides themselves on trying to keep a relationship with the youth in the community to assist with their future and prevent them from becoming a statistic in the justice system. The millennial generation is known for the use of social media and posting even crimes, which assists the police departments while investigating. The place a person is raised can have a significant influence on the type of lifestyle he or she lives based on his or her decisions. The Hazel Crest Police Department disclosed the process of one of their high profile crimes that originated from a social media application of Craigslist. The utilization of grand jury subpoenas and search warrants allowed the investigators to determine a suspect based upon the post and use his cell phone characteristics, records, text messages, and eye witness cooperation to identify him as the actual offender. The use of social media is continuing to increase and become the origin of many violent crimes in today’s society. The diligence of the investigator becomes vital to assuring that any person’s Amendment Rights are not violated in any way. Investiogations do eberuthing he or she can in order to obtain evidence properly to avoid any mistrials or inadmissible facts during the court process. This is the most important because the facts of the case assist in bringing the victims justice.
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