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NYPD To Comb Facebook, Twitter For Evidence Of Crimes

August 12, 2011

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has announced the formation of a new unit that will search social media for those involved in crimes, Forbes is reporting.

Criminals increasingly use social networks to plan and celebrate their illegal exploits.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor is in charge of an NYPD unit created specifically to comb social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and BlackBerry messenger for information on planned crimes and their perpetrators.

The NYPD is looking to be a step ahead of possible future large-scale criminal activity with this latest move, especially with the riots in London this week that were spurred in part by coordinated communications via social media.

Rioters in London have been using Twitter and BlackBerry messages to choose targets for looting or burning – and to alert one another about police positions. The very same social media sites have been a source for those trying to help cops by posting photos of rioters.

In the London riots in particular, law enforcement suspects that the looters relied heavily on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to coordinate and plan their riotous spree. Police there are working with Blackberry maker Research In Motion to decipher the messages and identify those responsible for burning and pillaging London stores, The New York Times reports.

O’Connor’s new unit will operate under the Community Affairs Bureau along with several outreach programs, with its mandate going beyond the net.

The 23-year veteran is known for his success in online policing, including stings to catch sexual predators looking for underage victims. He was also credited in his former assignment with a Manhattan North gang unit for providing critical information in a number of shooting cases gleaned from online boasting.

O’Connor was promoted to his new position from lieutenant – a highly unusual step up in rank. Under Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the NYPD has made wide use of technology, and it’s helped in a number of cases.

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