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Law enforcement in Broome County sees rise in Digital Drug Deals

BROOME COUNTY (WBNG) — Local law enforcement is warning parents about hidden drug deals happening on social media.

Apps like Snapchat make it easy for people to remain anonymous and set up transactions without getting caught.

12 News’ Chloe Vincente even searched the app, and what she found was shocking. The first video on the app’s public map showed a person using drugs just miles from our station.

Johnson City Police Chief Brent Dodge said, “We’ve definitely seen evidence of drug dealers using social media trying to advertise their product.”

Snapchat allows you to share pictures, videos and messages with your friends. Law enforcement says its also become a popular way for young people to to buy and sell drugs.

“Anyone who has access to these applications can get access to drugs,” said Broome County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matt Barcak.

You can make an account on Snapchat anonymously using any name. Detectives warn the secrecy, is part of the danger.

“We’re going to be seeing people younger and younger having access to marijuana and other drugs doing it anonymously and in a way that’s difficult for parents and law enforcement to track,” said Barcak.

He said Snapchat is appealing for those looking to deal drugs because the messages disappear within seconds of sending them. Or so they think.

“There are methods that law enforcement can use to retrieve those messages,” Barcak explained. “We can work directly with Snapchat and there’s other methods we can use to pull information out of cell phones and other devices.” Oftentimes, however, detectives don’t even have to work that hard to find evidence of drug activity.

Many of the stories on Snapchat posted by users can be seen by anyone in the area. “From our investigations watching Snapchat stories that are shared publicly in known drug areas primarily we’re seeing marijuana and the type of designer drugs that were seeing on college campuses,” said Barcak.

Using Snapchat’s map feature anyone can view public pictures and videos posted by users. Detectives can use that to see where posts involving drugs are showing up often, and because there’s an almost exact location it could take them right to the scene of the crime.

It’s not just the dangers of drug activity, however, that police are worried about. Chief Dodge said these digital drug deals pose a serious safety concern for young adults.

“They have to be very cautious they never know what exactly they’re getting into they may think they’re setting up a quick and easy drug transaction but it could be someone very well laying a trap for them and there could be great harm,” Dodge explained. And that’s not uncommon. “We term them drug deals gone bad and we see them time and time again,” he said.

We reached out to Snapchat the company said it has a trust and safety team and when users violate rules the offending content is removed and their account will be terminated. A spokesperson said, “There is no place for selling drugs on Snapchat. We encourage anyone who sees something like this anywhere to always report it.”

Chloe Vincente

Chloe Vincente is an Evening News Anchor at 12 News.

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