Crime Fighting By Smart Mobbing?

from the or-is-it-just-spying-on-your-neighbors? dept

There have been a few stories here and there about people preventing crime (or at least giving police clues about a crime) by using their camera phones. Well, now it appears that police in Germany have read up on Howard Rheingold’s concept of “smart mobs” and are set to use the concept to help fight crime. The system, which has been tested for over a year but is now official, would let police broadcast an SMS text message to the mobile phones of anyone who volunteers about a particular crime. In other words, say a bank has just been robbed in a certain area, the police can quickly tell everyone who volunteered in that area to be on the lookout for the suspect. Some, however, are quite upset about this use of ordinary citizens as an adjunct police force – saying that it only encourages people to spy on their neighbors and report them for doing crimes. I’m not sure that’s really the case. This isn’t a situation where people are being asked to report on all suspicious behavior, but to alert them to be on the lookout in response to very specific crimes. Still, the much more important question is whether or not this actually helps at all. Despite the year-long tests, there were a grand total of zero crimes solved using this method.

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