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Police use Facebook to help distraught teen

Police use Facebook to help distraught teen

For all the bad news stories we often follow about teens and social media, this one was a more helpful news report in recent days that I meant to post earlier.

From CNN’s article, Teen’s remark on Facebook sends cops into social media action to save a life:

A social media thread proved strong enough to pull a New Jersey teenager back from possible suicide, according to authorities.

And it was a social networking first for officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department — using Facebook and other outlets this week to track down and help a troubled 18-year-old whose three-word online posting seemed to say suicide.

“Thinking of jumping,” the teenager posted to his Facebook profile, alongside a photo of the George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River.

A concerned Facebook friend who saw the post contacted police in Paterson, New Jersey, alerting authorities to the apparent suicide threat, according to Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo.

Authorities first downloaded a photo of the teen and distributed it to officers to seek him out while searching the bridge. The teen wasn’t found there.

Meanwhile, a Port Authority sergeant and another officer assigned to Port Authority police’s emergency services reached out through the teen’s Facebook page, one leaving a cell phone number on the page, as the teen’s friends – witnessing what was happening – urged their friend to call the officer.

Within a couple of hours, the officer received a call from the teen and the two met in person to talk.  In the end, the teen agreed to be taken to a local hospital for assistance, according to CNN.

Read the full story at CNN.

Also h/t Daily Dot and NY Daily News.


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This is the first time that I have ever seen such an appropriate use of Facebook. It is to the credit of the teen’s friends that they worked so hard to save his life and help him to seek help.

How great….

Although I suppose preventing a suicide could be considered a plus, the idea that the cops can track you down should give everyone pause.

Next. The kid is lucky he wasn’t shot. These days when you call the cops their mission seems to stop whatever is going on by the quickest means possible and that seems to wind up being using their weapons.

How many people have called the cops and wound up having those they cared about being shot and killed? Too many.

    Lina Inverse in reply to jakee308. | November 17, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Agreed. Don’t talk to the police unless it’s absolutely necessary, like if you’ve pulled your gun or worse to stop an assault (since you don’t want the perp or a confused bystander to call first and have the police decide you’re the perp).

    Intervene when someone you know appears to be suicidal? Sure, and I’ve done it myself before. But think how you’ll feel if you involve the police and they end up shooting him or otherwise brutalizing him and making the situation that much worse. Or as Ken White of Popehat recently put it, Would You Ask Your Violent, Abusive Neighbor To Help Discipline Your Kids?

it turns out the kid is an avid bungee jumper

While I understand that social media can be a vehicle for outreach towards suicide risks, I am concerned like jakee308 about how police can track people down in such a manner.
I don’t necessarily agree with jakee’s assessment about cops potentially shooting APB bolo’s though.

The potential for abuse, or SWATTING style pranks is a grave pitfall that many are overlooking. What if this were a bogus facebook page? Or some prank?

What if, like the “other paul” says, “He is an avid bungee jumper” and the police misinterpret a posting?

After the initial report from the concerned friend, “Authorities first downloaded a photo of the teen and distributed it to officers to seek him out while searching the bridge. The teen wasn’t found there.”

It should have ended right there, as far as the police were concerned. If the teens friends were urging him to seek help, it should have been enough to do so through private means.

The idea that someone could report a “concern” about me for example, have the police investigate my social media sites, and leave unwanted or undesirable follow-up information at those sites, and continue to track them for possible responses, is entirely too “Big Brother” for my sensibilities. I don’t desire a big nanny or a big brother to look out for my safety. As we all know, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. I’d rather rely on my 1st, 2nd and 4th amendment rights to keep me safe.

While I don’t agree with forcibly preventing suicide, looking for him and leaving a number for him to call in, then taking his call and helping him was truly compassionate and moral.

Well done police in this isolated case.