Crowdsourcing Law Enforcement

from the first-10-callers-to-identify-this-fugitive... dept

In a move that seems calculated to evoke the film adaptation of 1984, the FBI has announced a plan to begin using some 150 Clear Channel digital billboards in major American cities to show national security alerts, information about recent crimes, and photographs of fugitive criminals and missing persons, all with real-time updates.

A pilot billboard in Philadelphia has already helped to capture several wanted criminals, and a spokesman for the outdoor advertising industry suggests that these kinds of publicity tactics can be as useful at demoralizing criminals as they are at generating tips:

"What law enforcement tells us is it contributes to an environment where the criminal feels they have no where to go. A lot of times they end up just giving up."

In a way, the surprising thing is that law enforcement officials hadn't previously taken such visible steps to make use of the distributed eyes and ears of ordinary citizens. The problem, of course, is that publicity can also generate lots of time-consuming false leads. An advertisement currently ubiquitous on New York subways applauds the thousands of New Yorkers who phoned in reports of suspicious packages in the past year. But since we haven't heard reports of thousands of bombs recovered on the A train, it seems safe to surmise that the noise-to-signal ratio on such tips is quite high. As for national security alerts, our experience with color-coded national security warnings, and the attendant spectacle of panicked citizens mobbing Home Depot for plastic sheeting and duct tape, suggest that the Bureau might be well advised to exercise a bit of circumspection about those real-time updates.

Filed Under: billboards, criminals, crowdsourcing, fbi


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  1. identicon
    Wisk, 3 Jan 2008 @ 11:02am

    How long until they claim 'the billboard thing worked wonders' and then say... hmmmmmmmmmmm

    what if we could simply turn on and activate everyone's webcams without anyone knowing (hijacking a webcam can be done) to take a peek in everyone's homes for the criminal without them even knowing!

    C'mon, its to SAVE the CHILDREN ! ! !


    I MEAN, you do know that there are already mic's in your computer that haven't been turned on to one day listen in on your household and then pop up google adds on your screen based on the candid conversations you have at home!

    Microsoft and Google are just waiting for a way to integrate an EULA to hide the "activate microphone listening" button... of course you won't read the EULA and simply click on accept and BAM! you are now wondering how this ever happened.

    Well, Dell currently installs LOJack and these microphones on every computer made. Luckily, they are delivered with these tracking and monitoring systems in the OFF positions.

    google it and see for yourself!

    BB's are a way to desensitize you!!!!

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