A Tampa Bay area law enforcement agency is disabling comment sections on their social media page to deter members of the public from posting tips online.
The Pasco’s Sheriff’s Office recently announced that it will disable comments on January 24 to prevent tips from being sent on social media.
The decision was due to an increase in tips being sent in the comment section and not through official and monitored channels.
“As we continually note, our social media platforms are not constantly monitored 24 hours a day, and as such, PSO personnel may not see the tip in the comments or messages until much later,” the agency said in a Facebook post.
The agency reminded the public that all tips should be called in or submitted online.
“If someone saw a missing person, for instance, and they are commenting, ‘hey they are here right now’ but they never called in that tip or submitted that tip online, then potentially by the time we see that tip that person has moved on,” Pasco Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Amanda Hunter said.
The agency said the number of social media tips has “increased over several months” despite efforts to direct the public to the proper tip lines.
The sheriff’s office said they will continue to update the public with information on cases or breaking news but will only be responsible for tips provided through the “proper channels.”
Dr. Kelli Burns, a social media expert with the University of South Florida, was disappointed with the decision.
“There could be some very important tips coming through this medium,” Dr. Burns said. “It’s an extra step to go to have to call something in or email something or even go to a website to type in some information, so I think it’s a disappointment to some extent that they don’t have the staff or the resources to monitor their social media full time.”
One Facebook user provided similar criticism.
“If people weren’t comfortable using the other formats to leave tips before, they won’t be comfortable with it now. It will just leave you with less tips,” the user commented.
According to the agency, the proper way to send a tip is by calling their non-emergency line at (727) 847-8102 and selecting option seven, or by calling their crime tips line at 1-800-706-2488. People can also report a crime online.