PNP taps social media to fight crime

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Aug 13 2010 11:22 AM | Updated as of Aug 17 2010 05:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Social networking sites may seem like the most unlikely place for the country's police force to pursue their crime-fighting operations, but the Philippine National Police (PNP) is keeping with the times and the tech trends to fight crime.

The PNP maintains a Twitter account using the username pnpgovph.



Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown," National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Deputy Regional Director for Operations Chief Superintendent George Regis said authorities are calling on the public to help the police in keeping peace and security in check.

"We are asking the citizenry to help us locate outstanding wanted persons or help solve the crime," Regis said.

Success stories

Social networking site Facebook has already proven useful in two recent operations.

This was the case with the arrest of 28-year-old computer technician Mark Dizon, a suspect in a string of deadly robberies in Angeles City in July.

Six Filipinos, an American, a Canadian and a Briton were killed in a series of attacks launched last month.

"The social users of Facebook led to messages sent from one friend to another and the PNP was able to use the message and [bag] the culprit Mark Dizon," Regis noted.

Regis said the popular social networking site also led to the arrest of 23-year-old car theft gang leader Ivan Padilla and four other members of his group.

"It was carelessness on their part that the investigators got hold of the picture of Ivan Padilla and one message said they were going to a certain place. That was how they tracked his movement," Regis added.

The FB account of arrested gang member Ryan Francisco led to the FB and Twitter accounts of the others, where they bared their plans and targets using military terms.

The legal limits

But the police admitted the cyber tool has its limits.

"Here in the Philippines, we don't utilize Facebook as evidence of cases filed in court but rather evidence on hand."

As it steps up its anti-crime efforts, the Laguna PNP has uploaded profiles of the country's most wanted criminals on Facebook.



PNP-Laguna Director Senior Superintendent Gilbert Cruz noted that aside from texting information, 80 million Facebook users can use the online venue to post comments.

The PNP Directorate for Information Technology and Management System keeps watch via Facebook and Twitter 24 hours a day.

Issue of confidentiality

The PNP assured citizens the fed information will be used by authorities without compromising public security.

"The info sent will be treated with confidentiality so as not to put the life of the informant in danger," Regis said.

Twitter reactions

ANC's Twitter followers are divided over the use of social media in fighting crime.

Some laud the innovative approach of the country's police force.

"Fighting crime should really be innovative and witty. And our police browsing FB to do just that is amazing." -- Emerson Ineses

Others go as far as encouraging authorities to tap more cyber avenues.

"Using Facebook in catching criminals is just one way but not everybody is on FB. Not all criminals are on FB."--Ace Esmeralda

Some question the possible breach of security protocols.

"Where does privacy begin and end. Could they check fb/twitter accounts of anyone? Should they get a search warrant?" -- EJay Bernardo

Some even call it a desperate act by authorities, as discoveries would be unreliable and would not stand in court.

"A desperate act! I don't even think the court will accept any evidence coming from FB. It's totally unreliable." -- Diane Sepa