Wednesday, 4th May, 2011
Police have "major concerns" with the way some locals are using social media networks such as Facebook following rumours of shots being fired and an armed man on the loose.
Officers were forced to investigate the rumours which appeared to be linked to a house fire in Beryl Street in the city's north on Monday afternoon.
Detective Inspector Mick Stoltenberg said yesterday there was no substance to the reports of an armed man, and warned people they could be leaving themselves "wide open" to having criminal action taken against them.
"Of recent concern is the fact that these media networks are being used to exaggerate alleged offences or incidents that are occurring within communities," Det Insp Stoltenberg said.
"This is making things very difficult for police to investigate matters and those responsible again could well find themselves having action taken against them for criminal offences.
"It is also causing unnecessary concerns to people about their safety and well-being and, of course, this does run the risk of having issues get out of control and public order and harmony to be put at risk."
Det Inspt Stoltenberg said authorities were continuing to investigate the blaze which severely damaged the house.
"First thing yesterday morning NSW Fire Brigade fire investigators and police Forensic Services staff were on scene carrying out an investigation.
"A number of witnesses have been spoken to about the fire and police have been taking statements relating to this since Monday evening.
He said the occupant of the home could not be located at first but was found with the assistance of family and the public a short time later.
"At this point in time the fire is being treated as suspicious and police are keen to speak to any person who may have information about the fire and how it started."
Det Insp Stoltenberg also said police have received a large number of reports of bullying and other threatening behaviour being made via social networks sites.
"I am sure that devices such as Facebook were not invented with this intent and police are asking all users to be mindful of what they say upon such mediums.
"What I would ask of community members is not to get involved in the speculation upon these mediums and to let police their job.