ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Social media is playing a growing role as a local law enforcement tool, Odessa Police said.
"Our detectives are using social media every single day to investigate a lot of cases," explained Cpl. Steve LeSueur. "We receive tips from all over the place."
Facebook has emerged as one of the leading sources of crime tips and suspect identification leads, he said, thanks to widespread use among residents and the increasing popularity of community groups such as the "Ector County Trading Post."
However, LeSueur urged social media users to "use common sense" when posting information linked to suspected wrongdoing.
"A lot of times it doesn't help with anything at all," he said. "It can interfere with an investigation."
People are often "quick to point fingers" and share names publicly when they think they recognize a wanted suspect, police explained.
Accurate posts can tip criminals off and foil planned arrests, according to investigators, while false information can drain police resources and "lead to nothing but a dead end."
"Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff that gets posted on social media turns out to be wrong," said LeSueur. "It's important to remember that we need to be contacted as soon as something happens. If you don't file a police report or call in a tip, there's usually not much we can do."
False information and erroneous tags linking innocent parties to reported crimes can also spark additional incidents, he added.
An Odessa resident and daily Facebook user said he "is well aware" of the consequences and urged social media "over-sharers" to think twice before hitting the "post" button.
"You can get somebody killed," he said. "You can get somebody hurt. You can get hurt yourself."