A dedicated team of detectives is using social media to help prevent crime and online fraud across the county.
Detectives at the Regional Cyber Crime Unit (RCCU), which covers Yorkshire and Humberside, are using the internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social media as part of 21st century police work.
Det Insp Geoff Halpin, from the unit, said: “We use social media in the same way as we would use any other way that people bring information to us.
“Whether it’s from us appealing for information for missing people or people reporting crimes to us, we use it in a lot of different ways.”
The unit, which launched in Februrary 2012, has already helped identify and prosecute criminals across Yorkshire.
Det Insp Halpin said social media has also helped to prevent suicides and serious crimes from being carried out.
He said: “We are trying to engage ourselves more with social media because it’s a very effective way of communicating with people very quickly.
“But the other side to it is that social media is a fantastic source of information and it is one of many tools we use as part of our investigations.
“We work with the other Regional Organised Crime Unit departments and support our regional forces to tackle serious and organised crime by providing investigative and technical support.
“There has been examples recently where people have threatened to commit crimes on social media and when we are aware of such posts we’re able to intervene at a very early stage.
“If people are communicating on social media about something they are going to do then we can put an end to it straight away. Using it has helped to save lives across the area.”
Detectives at the Central E-Crime Unit also work to prevent online fraud, hacking and scams. It held a week of action - codenamed Operation Vivarium - together with National Crime Agency (NCA) last week.
An 18-year-old from Huddersfield was one of six teenagers arrested on suspicion of launching cyber attacks using a service created by a notorious hacking group as part of the scheme.
Det Insp Halpin said officers from the Yorkshire unit also spoke to people suspected of cyber crime to warn them of the consequences. He said: “One golden rule I always say to people to help prevent being a victim of cyber crime is don’t share information online that you wouldn’t share with a stranger on the bus.
“Anything posted online can be accessible by other people once it’s on and you can’t take it back when it’s out there.”
Det Insp Halpin said the team were also working on tracking down hackers who are conning personal information out of innocent web users.
He said: “One problem we are seeing as a regional trend at the minute is social engineering which is where people are tricked into giving their personal data away.
“The scam can trick you into sharing personal details. It can come through and look like a genuine email but what I would say to people is unless you are absolutely sure that it’s genuine don’t give out any details.”
For more information on cyber crime and advice on how to prevent attacks on your computer visit West Yorkshire Police’s Block the Web Monsters campaign at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/BlockTheWebMonsters