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Social media may be fueling crime paranoia

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Violent crime rates in Missouri and around the country have fallen by almost 50% since 1993, according to figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, studies reveal that most Americans believe the country is becoming more dangerous, not less. This misconception is partly caused by a steady stream of mainstream media stories that stoke public fear and make sensational acts of violence seem far more common than they actually are. In addition, the abundance of information Americans have about modern life and the dizzying number of ways they can share it could also be playing a role.

Some of the most commonly downloaded news and social media applications give users local crime statistics in real time and allow them to post warnings to other users about suspicious activity or individuals. The companies behind these programs say they are designed to keep communities informed and safe, but innocent people or even vehicles that seem out of place are often painted as being up to no good. This sometimes results in individuals finding themselves in dangerous confrontations with police officers because a concerned citizen called 911.

Civil rights advocates are especially worried about Amazon’s Ring cameras as they are often handed out by police departments to gather information. The cameras are fitted inside doorbells, and the footage they record is sometimes used by law enforcement to monitor for potential criminal activity. Amazon claims that the devices are a strong weapon against crime, but they have provided no evidence to back up this claim.

When individuals are taken into custody for acts that took place after police arrived on the scene and not before, experienced criminal defense attorneys may check social media applications to find out if law enforcement was responding to reports of suspicious behavior that were based on speculation rather than fact. While this may not excuse obstruction of justice or resisting arrest, it could be enough to convince prosecutors to treat defendants more leniently.