Society

NYPD Launches Facebook and Twitter Crime Unit

| by Michael Allen

The NYPD is establishing a permanent presence inside the world of social media to find bad guys on popular sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor will head this ‘CSI of cyberspace.’ His department, which specializes in youth and gangs, will look for info about house parties, gang activity and other potential crimes.

The new NYPD unit hopes to stop crimes before they happen as people often announce what they’re going to do, or catch them after the fact, as criminals have been known to brag about their exploits online.

O'Connor's new unit will operate under the Community Affairs Bureau and handle community outreach programs beyond the web. The 23-year veteran officer has had success in using the Internet to catch predators looking for underage sex.

The power of social media has empowered both criminals and police. This week in London, rioters have been using Twitter and BlackBerrys to choose stores for looting and to alert their comrades about police locations.

On the flipside, social media has also helped police track down rioters and find pictures of suspects.

At first glance, it would seem that once criminals understand their moves are being monitored, they'll simply refrain from posting anything incriminating. However, as mentioned above, not everyone is that smart -- or disciplined.