One of Facebook’s greatest drawbacks is also one of its biggest strengths: it can get the word out about something far and wide in a very short period of time. That facet of the site was put to good use last week as a Tulsa woman used Facebook to catch a criminal who assaulted and robbed her grandparents.
After her grandparents were robbed at knifepoint on Tuesday, October 1, Beki Atkins immediately posted a description of the assailant on Facebook. It was shared over 9,000 times, and soon Atkins received a tip via private message on Facebook from the alleged robber’s brother-in-law. The alleged criminal, Michael Lank, was arrested by police a short time later.
“It’s amazing how social media has kind of helped in this investigation,” Adam Atkins, Beki’s brother, said. “It’s really given me a sense of community and faith and family and that’s something I’m very grateful for.”
However, despite the immediate results, law enforcement officials warned about some of the possible unintended consequences of using social media to catch crooks.
“Friends and family members of the suspect could see that and alert the individual we are out there looking for them,” said Leon Calhoun, the public information officer for the Broken Arrow Police Department in Tulsa. “The suspect then could try to hide, run away or even destroy evidence. We always want the public to contact the police first.”