Social media plays key role in bombing investigation

C. Oregon police also weigh their value, case by case

POSTED: 10:55 PM PDT April 19, 2013    UPDATED: 11:17 PM PDT April 19, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Social media played a huge part in helping police identify the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Central Oregon police also know the worth of social media.

It's no secret: Social media has a lot of users.

More than a billion people use Facebook -- and as many as 300 million photos are added to the site every day.

Twitter has a half a billion users, with as many as 300 million tweets going out every day.

So it's not surprising to Bend police Lt. Chris Carney that Boston police and the FBI utilized that resource to help identify the Boston bombing suspects.

"In this case, what you are looking at is such a dynamic situation," Carney said. "It's not like they're hiding somewhere. This one is active -- you want people to understand who you are looking for, so they can capture (them) immediately -- and they are dangerous."

Carney says the decision by police to use social media is weighed on a case-by-case basis.

"Maybe, if we release too much information, could it hurt a court case, because now can we find a good, safe jury pool?" Carney said. "Because too much information is out there and now everybody knows about it?

"Or do we risk somebody's safety by putting too much information out there. Do we accuse an innocent person of something? Or does the public now go after somebody who is innocent because maybe they knew somebody?"

But in this case, it was critical.

"I would say in this situation, when they have identified who they are, they know they are dangerous," Carney said. "They know they are out there trying to hurt as many people as possible. They want to get that stopped immediately."

Back in Bend, a serial armed bank robber has been on the loose since December 2011.

His picture has been on TV, but police haven't used social media to reach out for help.

"Whether it's the bank robbery, the fires, maybe a homicide, you just have to take that situation and say, what's the benefit of using social media?" Carney said. "If there's a benefit there, then absolutely we should use it. If it's of no benefit, then it really doesn't serve any purpose."

Carney acknowledged that Bend police haven't used social media as much as they probably should.

They say a good example of social media use was during the Clackamas Town Center shooting, when the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office used it to get information out to family members.