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Social Media Police

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28)  Twenty years ago the only crimes you might see caught on camera were bank robberies and the occasional police chase or shootout on a squad car dash cam.  But as police found out during the Vieshea riots in Ames earlier this month, today everybody has a camera and loves to post pictures of their friends doing fun and sometimes illegal things.

Three weeks later, investigators are still going through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram posts, capturing the people who were captured on cell phone cameras as they pushed over light poles and turned over cars.

Ames Police Commander Geoff Huff says the department has posted some of those pictures on its own Facebook page in an effort to do whats called Crowd Sourcing, We put pictures out to the crowd and tell people hey, help us out with this and people have really been willing to help.  I dont think weve ever had another case where weve had this many people call us and send us information.

Cedar Rapids Police are enjoying some of the same success on social media. Efforts to find those responsible for a brawl at Lindale Mall had stalled until someone posted video of the fight on YouTube and Facebook. More than ten thousand people watched it and some helped investigators to identify the people throwing punches and chairs.

Public Information Officer Greg Buelow says another example came just last week when the picture of a man accused of using a stolen credit card was posted to several local Facebook pages, Within 24 hours he came to the front desk of the police station and told the officer there that he had seen his own picture and thought he better turn himself in. 

After trying to breathe some life into the 1979 cold case murder of Cedar Rapids teenager Michelle Martinko, police estimate more than 100,000 people in the corridor saw the request for more information on Facebook and Twitter.  Buelow says if the right person comes forward it could break the case wide open, You have a lot of people, new people on Facebook and literally you can communicate with people throughout the world and one post when it starts getting shared numerous times just opens up new avenues.

Cedar Rapids police say that was obvious even from the recent case of a lost dog found floating on the ice in the river.  A picture posted on Facebook received more than 5,000 hits and quickly reunited the pup with his owner.  Buelow adds that many people who would never pick up the phone to call police, will communicate by Facebook or Twitter and that could even lead to more shared information and clues in the recent shootings in Cedar Rapids.  
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