Social media threats sparking violent crime in the Midlands

Social media threats sparking violent crime in the Midlands

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - These days, keyboard clicks are turning into trigger pulls.

“Someone disrespects someone, they’re not agreeing on a certain post, and it catapults it to violence in the street, unfortunately,” said Captain Rafael Gonzalez from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

In the City of Columbia, violent crime is on the rise. Homicides, robbery, and aggravated assault numbers are all higher in 2019 than they were this same time last year. Law enforcement officials at the county level said a lot of that violent crime is coming from smaller arguments that start on social media.

“Ten years ago, the social media sites weren’t as popular as they are today,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the thing that kids are doing today. It’s become popular amongst the youth. It’s become popular amongst our culture. They utilize the social media sites to communicate.”

These days, investigators said an argumentative post or tweet could put someone in the hospital or worse.

When it comes to recent gun violence in Columbia and Richland County, both Chief Skip Holbrook and Sheriff Leon Lott said it’s typically gang or drug related.

“What we’ve seen nationally, when threats are made and how threats are carried out, the flags are all there,” Gonzalez said. “The signs were all there of a person going to carry out an event.”

That’s why parents are being asked to speak with their kids, keep an eye on their social media, and step in before it’s too late.

“We need you to be more proactive,” he said. “Know what your child’s talking about, who they’re talking to. Who pays for the cell phone? Who has the password to the cell phone? You’d be surprised how many parents don’t have that information to get into a child’s cell phone.”

Captain Gonzalez said, if you see someone making a threat, you need to report it. He said it’s not enough to think that someone else may have called in to report the post, law enforcement officials need you to do your part and alert them before someone gets hurt.

While law enforcement officials are working to lower those violent crime numbers, according to some Columbia Police stats we’ve received, numbers for non-violent crimes such as larceny and burglary have dropped slightly this year compared to 2018.

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