Fresh off the arrest of a man that dared the New York police department to track him down on Facebook, the NYPD is launching a new unit with the primary goal of tracking criminals on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networks. In addition to tracking wanted criminals, the group will also use social networks to keep track of gang violence and out-of-control house parties. The leader of the unit, Kevin O’Connor, has previously been credited with linking a Manhattan North gang to a series of shootings via online bragging on social networks. He also routinely uses the Internet to bust child predators with stings that start online.
While this targeted effort is designed to decrease the amount of juvenile crime through active monitoring, the NYPD has already been using social networks to prove guilt in certain cases. One case included the fatal beating of Anthony Collao attributed to anti-gay sentiments. One member from the group of men that beat Collao to death boasted about the murder over Facebook. Another case involved an argument on Facebook over $20 which escalated to the death of a young woman from stabbing.
London police are likely to mimic the NYPD’s actions after the recent riots. The police are receiving hundreds of photos, videos and online tips about people bragging about looting during the riots. Some individuals on Facebook have even posted pictures of themselves with all the stolen goods and others are bragging n Twitter about the types of electronics and other expensive items stolen. The London police have turned to Flickr to post pictures of rioters and are requesting help from the public in identifying these criminals. An independent group is also attempting to identify looters by using facial recognition technology to compare riot photos with Facebook profile pictures.