Tuesday, May 13, 2008
YouTube, Crime and Real Reality
“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”
I used to watch “Cops”, one of reality TVs first entries and one of the longest running television shows in the United States. I was fascinated to see real police officers on duty catching criminals. Sad but true, it was always more fun when they were doing so right in my own town. “Cops” in Portland or Denver, OK. But “Cops” in Lakewood or Pierce County? Sweet. Not only did it tell stories of criminal justice, but you could also play spot the landmark.
“Check it out, they’re right by the Shipwreck Tavern.”
Always edited for action and careful to obscure the criminals identifying features (unless that individual signed a release ((Mom, I’m on TV!!!)), they pointed out where crimes occurred and gave us a closer peek into the real world.
Now it is in our hands as well.
Scott Fontaine, The News Tribune's mobile journalist, has posted a submitted video in an attempt to start a dialog around the subject of citizens who record the actions of other citizens involved in criminal activity and then make the images available to the public. He also made an accompanying comment requesting others thoughts.
In this case downtown resident Laura Hanan sent a video of a group of young men drinking what looks like a fifth of tequila (my guess, could be vodka) out by a parked car in front of a downtown nightclub. At one point it appears that one of them urinates on the wall.
This is not the first time locally that someone has recorded a video to point out problems they would like to have addressed. Scott weighed in on the topic last November in this post.
Not just in Tacoma either, Katherine Sather in a post this week on Citizen Rain writes about a Belltown resident who wanted to draw attention to drug problems in her neighborhood and created a YouTube page called Belltown Crime.
As Katherine notes, “Video titles include "crackheads playing football in my alley" and "crackhead makes pipe out of a can while wearing sombrero."
The videos on the site appear to have gone private again. As the poster explains, “sorry. I only took the videos for two weeks, and it was never my intention to keep shooting videos or to leave the videos on for a long time, just wanted light to be shed on the problem,…”
Which, it apparently helped to do.
Certainly the surveillance video of the criminal dubbed “Captain Jack Sparrow Burglar” once posted convinced the not too bright, unsuccessful break in artist to turn himself in.
At least one police department is considering making it part of their policing process according to the Washington Post. The Arlington County Police Department has turned to YouTube in its quest to get the bad guys by posting surveillance video from crime scenes in hope of generating leads and identifying suspects.
As I commented on Scotts blog, cameras and cell phones record video now, and posting is easy to do. I imagine that we will be seeing more of this type of citizen reporting. As for COPS, I think it is still airing, and the makers have a new show called Street Patrol.
I also believe that at some point laws will be needed or tested having to do with privacy and defamation issues for online posting of videos.
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