When concerned citizens post photos of 'criminals' on Facebook, are they being helpful or hurtful?

Posted at 7:29 AM, Nov 30, 2016

Police departments frequently use social media to try to identify criminals caught in the act on camera.

For example, in Mentor, police asked residents to help identify a man who allegedly stole jackets from a local retail store. 

But when residents start posting pictures, they walk a fine line between being helpful and calling out innocent people.

A post to a local neighborhood community page shows two people just walking outside.

But the resident who posted the photo claimed the pair "seem to be up to no good."

And a post to a Lakewood community Facebook page warned of a white van that was allegedly involved in home break-ins. But police said they've received no complaints about the white van.

"The problem is someone decides to post something, a picture of somebody or something going on, but they don't know the full story," national security expert Tim Dimoff told News 5.

Dimoff said people can let their emotions drive their actions to post.

"Many people will post stuff on social media because of what they strongly believe, but it's not what they strongly know."

Dimoff said the best thing to do is send the picture directly to the police department.