New York Cops Want to Catch Future Mass Shooters Online—Before They SnapS

The recent school shooting in Newtown, CT is proving a watershed moment for American gun control efforts—public opinion is quickly coalescing in favor of stringent regulation proposals while civic leaders scramble to respond to the outcry. But fear not New Yorkers, the NYPD has a plan—wait for potential killers to mention their murderous intentions on Facebook.

According to NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, the department's top intelligence officers met Thursday to brainstorm over ways to prevent tragedies such as the Sandy Hook incident. As Kelly explains, this is what they came up with,

The techniques would include cyber-searches of language that mass-casualty shooters have used in e-mails and Internet postings. The goal would be to identify the shooter in cyberspace, engage him there and intervene, possibly using an undercover to get close, and take him into custody or otherwise disrupt his plans.

Law enforcement personnel would rely on a search algorithm ("cyber-searches," if you will) to seek out "terms used by active shooters in the past that may be an indicator of future intentions," Paul. J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, told the NYT. The search technique is reportedly similar to that already used by US anti-terrorism forces to pick up on terrorist chatter. The department has reportedly already sent teams to the Connecticut crime scene to collect baseline information.

While the department's efforts to respond swiftly and decisively to this tragedy are commendable, they seem to be forgetting an important detail. Adam Lanza was a non-entity on the net with no Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts to speak of. Such a dragnet may very well miss threats like him but could require broad, invasive access to the emails and other private data of an estimated 19.3 million New York residents. On the other hand, the NYPD has already shown that it can effectively leverage social media in its investigations as demonstrated by the recent bust of Brooklyn's TBO gang. So, what will it be, personal privacy or proactive protection? Let us know in the discussion below.

[New York Times - Image: zimmytws / Shutterstock]