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By Natasha Brown

By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police officers are becoming social media sleuths.

They are using popular networks like Twitter to catch criminals.

No longer are Philadelphia police officers forced to just walk a beat to fight crime.

Often times now the key to solving crimes are at their fingertips, possibly just a tweet away.

“This would be something that was just posted as a video of somebody who committed an armed robbery about 15 minutes ago,” Sergeant Eric Gripp said.

Gripp heads up the Philadelphia Social Media Police Unit.

“People start sharing this and it actually starts to have a snowball effect,” he said.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook have proven effective crime-fighting tools generating scores of tips.

“We receive so many tips, so much information and a lot of it we believe is information we wouldn’t be receiving otherwise,” Gripp said.

Detective Joseph Murray was one of the first officers to embrace social media.

“I received multiple tips, tons of tips. We solved a shooting based on information received from somebody who follows me on Twitter,” Murray said.

Police using these sites to instantaneously get out information on some of the most horrific crimes. Like this suspect, wanted for attacking two men in Southwest Philadelphia with a machete (see related story). You’re seeing the video just 24 hours after the crime.

“It’s not always a way for us to solve a case or find somebody that we’re looking for but it gives us a start and it gives us a lead that we otherwise wouldn’t have received,” Gripp said.

Police considering their 24,000 followers on Twitter and more than 60,000 on Facebook as potential witnesses to these crimes.

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