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Law Enforcement Uses Internet to Solve Offline Crimes

Crime happens online, but more local law enforcement use the Internet to solve offenses that occurred elsewhere.

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Crime happens online, but local law enforcement agencies also use the World Wide Web to solve offenses that occurred elsewhere. Pictures found on a popular Web site may have played a role in the shooting death of a Durham teen last Friday.

Before detectives raided a Wilmington home to make arrests for a recent robbery, investigators had found an online photo of suspect Ryan Mills armed with weapons and posing for the camera. Some observers said they believe the photo might be the reason a SWAT-like team was called in to serve the arrest warrants. During the incident, police shot and killed the other suspect, Mills' friend Peyton Strickland at Strickland's home. Mills was arrested elsewhere.

Police officers and detectives can get to information online that isn't accessible to the public. Accurint.com is a Web site designed for law enforcement, and information on the site says it allows law enforcement to access billions of records at a click of a button.

Investigators told WRAL that sites like Accurint can make their jobs easier.

"We can track people's activity," said Investigator Grant Davis, a 15-year veteran with the Garner Police Department. "There are Web sites out there that we can go to and see where they've lived the last couple of years."

In October, a Smithfield officer cracked a multimillion-dollar jewelry heist when he found the stolen jewels up for auction on eBay. In August, Orange County investigators used the popular MySpace Web site in a sting to catch a 46-year-old middle school teacher whom they have accused of soliciting children for sexual favors over the Internet.

Even officers on the road don't have to leave their cruisers to search for data. It's right at their fingertips.

"It's a very valuable tool. You don't have to call somebody to get the information. The information is provided to you right here," said Garner police officer Dave Casteline. "It's simply a point and click away."

There are also Web sites police go to for certain crimes, such as one that Garner investigators use to track gang members. Such sites require special subscriptions to keep the information for getting into the wrong hands.


Bobbie Eng, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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