Scotland Yard must tap social media sites more effectively to dismantle and quash gang culture in London by tracking the electronic footprints left by the goons, according to New York police officers.
Evidence on the territories and memberships of gangs, and crimes committed by them, has never been easier to find online, US police said, adding that tracking the electronic footprints of criminals had led them to crush entire gang structures in Manhattan.
Assistant commissioner Kevin O’Connor of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) said use of social media had evolved from Myspace through Twitter and Facebook to Instagram.
He said: “It’s getting easier and easier, not harder and harder to obtain evidence. All they’ve done is change venues from Facebook to Instagram. For instance, they post a picture standing in front of a rival’s territory saying: ‘Where you at?’
Using social media to infiltrate UK gang culture was a key topic recently at an international summit in London to tackle criminal culture, the Guardian reported.
US criminologists said officers from Scotland Yard had displayed “tremendous interest” in social media’s potential to tackle complex crime.
Professor David Kennedy, of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said gangs’ need to brag meant they had gravitated to social media as a means of reaching a wide audience.
One by-product of this, he said, was that street graffiti had become almost obsolete as a way of marking territory or communicating with rival factions.
“These gangs used to communicate with each other, threaten each other and send signals through graffiti, but are not doing that any more; it’s all online. Gangs talk about what they do on social media to an extraordinary degree,” Kennedy said.
Last Wednesday the NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney announced the largest indicted gang case in the city’s history.
A total of 103 members of three violent gangs were charged and O’Connor said evidence obtained from social media had been a crucial factor in assembling the case against the gangs in Manhattan.