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Police Increasingly Using Social Media to Catch Criminals

Police Increasingly Using Social Media to Catch Criminals

“Police have got very extensive monitoring of the Blackberry Messenger model.”

It may not be the brightest idea for a high schooler to broadcast on their Facebook page about an upcoming house party with underage drinking. Or for a London rioter to Tweet his next target. Or for a sexual predator to solicit sex from a minor on MySpace. But it happens and police are more and more using it to their advantage to catch criminals.

Most notably, London Metropolitan Police and citizens have been using social media to help catch or prevent looters. Police are also encouraging those with photos of looters to upload them on their Flickr site and the tumblr site, To Catch a Looter. Bloomberg reported that Black Berry is helping the police by monitoring messages for sites of potential looting:

“Police have got very extensive monitoring of the Blackberry Messenger model,” Stephen Kavanagh, deputy assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, told reporters today. “A lot of people who are seeing those messages are forwarding them to police” who are “planning for mass disorder again tonight.”

David Lammy, the U.K.’s intellectual-property minister, today called for a suspension of BlackBerry service to prevent its use among rioters to communicate plans, according to a statement from his office. Kavanagh has said technology is being used to organize people and undermine the police, who must adapt their policing style to deal with it.

Social media sites are also being used to lead a clean up effort. Wall Street Journal reported that within just a few hours of creating the Twitter account @Riotcleanup, more than 55,000 followers had joined; there is a similar page on Facebook.

PC World has been delving more into how police used social media to catch perpetrators in both the London riots and riots that occurred after the Stanley Cup two months ago in Vancouver:

Every one of those individuals who hurt someone, stole something, or destroyed property in London and Vancouver — and anywhere else — made a choice. If social networks are now making more of them live with the consequences of that choice, then they are, in this way at least, making the world a better place.

The NYPD solidified the value of using social media as a tool to catch criminals or stop potential crimes by creating a new online policing unit.

The NY Daily News reports that 23-year-old Assistant Commissioner Kevin O'Connell and his team will scour Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other similar social media sites for those bragging about their committed or upcoming crimes. O'Connell has already been successful in using the Internet to help catch criminals, which have included those soliciting sex from minors.

UPDATE: Facial recognition technology, which was going to be used in London's 2012 Olympic games, is currently being used to help catch London rioters and looters.

According to an anonymous official who spoke to the Associated Press, police are running photos through Scotland Yard's updated face-matching program to catch perpetrators. A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed Thursday that facial recognition technology was at his force's disposal.

We reported earlier this week about  facial recognition technology loaded on social media sites and privacy issues that have arisen. This type of program was also used in the 2011 Super Bowl and caught 19 criminals entering the stadium.

[H/T Popular Science]

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