When a 20-year-old Northampton man vanished last year, local police used traditional investigation tools: air and ground search teams, media alerts and missing person fliers.
The family and friends of Brian Shipley, though, turned to cyberspace, creating the Facebook page “Please Help Find Brian Shipley” to gather information about his whereabouts. A friend purchased a Web domain in his name and launched a website that generated more than 25,000 views before Shipley reappeared alive and well three months later.
Earlier this year, the disappearance of 19-year-old Middletown resident Christopher King prompted an outpouring of online activity. A post of King that appeared on the Facebook page for Carl Sandburg Middle School, where he once attended, was shared nearly 10,000 times before King was located alive six days later.
|Illustration by Morgaine Ford Workman|
The law enforcement community, too, is increasingly using social media outlets in missing person cases recognizing the value of crowd-sourcing, the practice of obtaining services or content by soliciting large groups, especially online communities. Police are not only using Twitter and Facebook to disseminate information about missing people, but also they monitor missing individuals’ social media account activities to obtain information on potential whereabouts.