By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

Crime Stoppers Atlanta has integrated Facebook and Twitter into its website to assist police in chasing criminals through the social media.

With a few clicks, citizens can add a photo of a wanted suspect to their personal Facebook page and spread the word to their friends. They also can send anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers, which is funded by the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Miguel Sepulveda, Atlanta Crime Stoppers director, said the idea is to make it easy for residents to communicate with police.

“The reality is that most people nowadays—especially the age group we are targeting—are on Facebook and using these tools.

In Atlanta it is being used by police in investigations into gangs among other things. For instance, detectives scribble down gang tags scrawled on walls and then search social networking sites for anyone posting under those tags, which are sort of pseudonyms or handles, according to Lt. Byron Martin, Homeland Security commander for the Atlanta Police Department.

The technology can also help with crowd control. Martin explained that Twitter came in handy recently in efforts to deal with the potential resurrection of Freaknik, a wide area car-based event that in the past had shut down parts of the city. Officers used Twitter to track the location and nature of spontaneous gatherings, Martin said.