NYPD Wants Your Videos to Help Fight Crime

It was only a month ago that we reported how various police departments are setting up systems for receiving anonymous tips via text messaging to help solve crimes. Now the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) Commissioner, Ray Kelly, is embracing another social media technology to help police solve crimes: asking people upload "video or photo evidence directly to the New York Police Department."

"It's a fact of life," Kelly said. "Everybody has a camera in their telephones. When people can record an event taking place that helps us during an investigation, it's helpful."

The NYPD's motivation, however, might actually be founded not so much in trying to fight crime as to save face over a number of NYPD-caught-on-video moments that have embarrassed the department and outraged many who have seen the videos. First, a video shot by a bystander was posted on YouTube on July 27 of an incident between a NYPD officer and a cyclist during a Critical Mass (this video has already been seen over 1.1 million times on YouTube). Then two days later on July 29, WNBC News showed video footage--again shot by a bystander--of a police officer repeatedly beating a man with his baton.

As more people carry cameras and cell phones capable of recording video, we're starting to see more citizen reporting showing up online in places such as YouTube. Last fall, video of a University of Florida student getting tasered by University police at a Senator John Kerry speaking engagement popped up online and quickly went viral (the YouTube clip from the Gainesville Sun has over 3 million views).

Instead of cowering from the increased coverage and scrutiny police departments are receiving from the ever-increasing ubiquity of on-the-street video and online video sharing, the NYPD appears to be embracing the transparency that it offers, and hopes that it can also use it catch a few criminals in the process. While not quite as well-known as the "Don't Tase Me, Bro" video, the "jump up to get beat down" video of a group of teenage girls assaulting a man on the New York City subway also made the rounds online. This sort of crime-caught-on-tape is the exact sort of footage that the NYPD hopes that people will upload.

Credit: Legend Technologies
In another move to increase transparency using video technology, the Newburgh, New York Police Department was experimenting with a "lightweight,pager-sized digital camera that attaches to an officer's gun barrel andautomatically begins recording as soon as the officer draws his weapon," called the PistolCam. Footage captured during an incident when a police officer discharges his weapon can later be reviewed to asses whether the firing of the gun was in fact justified.

Kelly did not provide details at to when the video upload service to the NYPD would be rolled out, other than to say that it will be available soon. Also not known is whether the service will support anonymous upload, similar to the anonymous texting tip systems in place with several police departments.
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