Roger writing the LAWmag

A'Twitter and A'Facebook: Field of Dreams for Law Enforcement

Crime prevention and law enforcement have traditionally been handcuffed by privacy paranoia.

Obviously, if there were a video camera on every street corner and if all convicted criminals were required to wear a GPS locator, the crime rate would sink. Motor vehicle accidents would no longer have to be resolved on the conflicting, self-serving evidence of two drivers.

Most citizens have not been the victim of violent crime so there is nothing to relate to when we squawk about privacy issues.

Already, involuntary disclosure resources such as cell phone trackers has helped resolve horrendous crimes and catch despicable criminals.

Facebook eyeIn one Michigan drunk driving case, Thomas Wellinger was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to at least 19 years when his GMC Yukon's black box showed he was driving 70 mph in a 45 mph zone, conclusive evidence of his criminal negligence.

And now, we have a new and exciting source of voluntarily disclosed personal information: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube ....

On January 1, 2010, two Toronto women were allegedly raped in a hotel room by five men they had met at a New Year's Eve party. While the charges have not yet been proven in a court of law, the victims would never have found the alleged perpetrators were it not for pictures of them at the party on When the women found the pictures, the pictures were published by police as WANTED. The men saw their pictures and promptly gave themselves in.

In August of 2009, some hair-brained Northern Quebec father gave his 7-year old son the wheel of his car and let him drive at a speed of 72kmh on a wet back road, while the mother held a younger daughter in her hands and beamed with pride. The YouTube video quickly caught the attention of Québec police and child protection authorities. The images of the mother and the children were clear and quickly allowed police to identify the parents.

Violent crimes committed by youth are often filmed and posted on YouTube, giving law enforcement officers excellent evidence to commence an investigation.

Similarly, young criminals often do not keep their mouths shut and are quick to mention their exploits on social networking sites. These comments are often monitored by the police where the individual is already a suspect, or anonymously reported to the police by a third party.

In January of 2007, 19-year old University of Connecticut student, Carlee Wines, was the victim of a fatal hit and run. Leads in the Facebok account and profile of the suspected driver led police to his arrest and conviction in spite of his denials, and his parents conspiracy in the cover-up.

Unfortunately, criminals also use social networking sites to assist in the commission of crime. Some break and enter offenses have been known to occur because of the posting by the vacationers of the dates and duration of their absence from the country. In Venezuela, where kidnapping  is not uncommon, the victim and venue of the kidnapping is often studied for months through Facebook and Google Earth and StreetView.

Technology is changing the way we live out lives and how the police investigate crime. A lethal combination of unimaginative politicians and bleeding heart privacy liberals prevent an aggressive crime prevention strategy.

But while the front door remains firmly locked, blue shirts are finding openings in the back.


Posted in Crime and Criminal Law, Internet & Intellectual Property, Law Enforcement, Personal Injury and Tort Law