By Lauren Scott
LONOKE (KTHV) -- A sex offender moves into your neighborhood, you want to know. Who wouldn't?
That's why more and more police agencies are sending out alerts on social media. That gives posters an outlet to get information and voice their opinions on it. But we've run across something that makes us wonder when those posters cross the line.
What we found raises this question, "How many of you would post a threat against someone else online, even if you thought they deserved it?" We found some people writing on the Lonoke County's Sheriff's Department face book page, suggesting people use offenders as target practice. We realize, there's probably not a lot of sympathy for these offenders, but what about your average person out there? Chief Deputy Dean White and an attorney at UALR, both say it's a fine line when it comes to online threats.
"It's public information; we post it for safety of the citizens." In an effort to protect, the Lonoke County Sheriff's department posts sex offenders pictures to its face book page and now people are commenting on those photos. Some of the comments aren't so nice. Chief Deputy White says, "They are discussing, they ought to go out and use them as target practice, and no one is specifically making a threat when you read these statements." We asked, "So none of that is a threat?" Chief Deputy White, "None that I've read."
The comments vary, some sympathize with the victim. Other target the offender, one reads "take him out and shoot him" But Chief Deputy Dean White says it's not a threat. "A lot of this is just opinion, and that's what a lot of people are using the social hubs for."
But we want to know, when do these kinds of comments on social media cross the line into real threats. So we went to UALR Law professor Felecia Epps. "That is a very difficult question." Epps says it gets into the first amendment and determines what's protected; she says general statements will be okay. Epps also adds details make all the difference when it comes to charges. "Specific injury to a specific person talk, you can get into situations where you have a terroristic threatening."
White says the department will be looking into the comments. He says they plan to delete some of the posts and limit some of the input on their face book page.