Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Philadelphia Police Use Social Media To Find Potential Suspects

While ideas of social media innovation are sometimes related to social networking sites like Twitter, not many people may realize that law enforcement agencies also innovate by using them as a new tool to gain cooperation and information from the community. According to The Social Graf, the Philadelphia Police Department has utilized social media to release a new crime-fighting project called "Video Villains."

"Video Villains" serves as a kind of online "most wanted list" that includes video footage of perpetrators caught in the act of a crime, including those that involve violence or property. The Philly PD may post a range of things from videos on YouTube and still shots on Flicker to updates on Facebook, Twitter, or their own Philadelphia Police website.

By using social media, Philadelphia authorities encourage concerned citizens to help authorities identify criminals so that they can be immediately arrested. However, they are also not the only law enforcement agency in the country that has taken the initiative to use and develop social media programs.

Boston's MTBA transit police, for instance, have created their own official Twitter account that serves as a public tip line where riders can easily and directly submit tips and images to authorities through text messaging. Photos sent by the public are then quickly cross-referenced with pictures from almost 700 surveillance cameras at various MTBA trolleys, buses, parking garages, and train stations.

Internal government documents have revealed that federal agencies, like the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, use social networks "to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities." The Department of Homeland Security has even been able to uncovere phony "green card" marriages between immigrants and U.S. citizens through Facebook.

For more information on issues concerning social media and video surveillance, visit the Related Resources links below.

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