The Long Link of the Law

To paraphrase the famous introduction of an old black-and-white crime drama, there are a thousand stories in the Naked City -- and nowadays there's a ...
by | February 4, 2008

  To paraphrase the famous introduction of an old black-and-white crime drama, there are a thousand stories in the Naked City -- and nowadays there's a good chance they'll show up on YouTube.

In Arlington County, Va., police are using the online video-sharing site to post surveillance camera recordings to look for tips on unsolved crimes, including a Jan. 11 bank heist and and a Jan. 7 grocery store burglary.

The initiative is the work of police spokesman John Lisle and his staff. "Everybody's using YouTube, so there's no reason police departments shouldn't use it too," Lisle told the Washington Post .

In fact, crime-fighters around the world are doing just that.

In November, the prosecutor's office in Gloucester County, N.J., posted video showing a suspect in the beating death of a Rowan University sophomore. The video (reposted by the Gloucester County Times) shows a man at a convenience store counter just before the crime. "Since the suspect and his companions have been described as young males, we thought it could be helpful in identifying the individual captured on store surveillance camera video to have it accessible on a young person's medium," said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton.

Authorities in Toronto also say YouTube "is proving to become a valuable investigative tool." As the Toronto Star reported Saturday, police there are using their YouTube page to seek help identifying an eight-month-old baby who was abandoned last week in the stairwell of a shopping center parking garage.

Police departments routinely provide surveillance video to local TV and newspapers, and some post video on their own Web sites. Speaking to WUSA-TV (Ch. 9), Arlington County's Lisle said using YouTube to circulate those same clips helps authorities expand extend their search for possible leads. "The idea behind it is: Let's get this video out there so that as many people as possible can see it," he said.

Police using video to help solve crimes is different from criminals posting videos that unintentionally help police. Governing's Zach Patton wrote an item here in November about how Boston police were using amateur video posted on YouTube to help identify possible gang members.

In January, two alleged gang members brandishing assault weapons posted an online video taunting Miami-Dade police. "Miami Dade Gang Unit, here I am, baby," one of the men said. The pair were arrested less than two weeks later and face federal weapon charges.

Mark Stencel
Mark Stencel  |  Former Editor
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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