In the early hours of June 4th, the New York Police Department raided the General Ulysses S. Grant and Manhattanville housing projects in West Harlem. Its biggest gang raid ever, it saw 40 suspects arrested—and it was masterminded by mining over 1 million Facebook posts.
The 145 indictments—including those made for murder, assault, and conspiracy—were made possible by reviewing data posted to Facebook and other social networks. In fact, as the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reports, authorities were trying to halt a feud between the two housing projects. It just happened they found more than they expected.
The tensions stemmed not from territory disputes but rather simple, simple vengeance, and it was evidenced in torrents of online abuse and provocations. Many of those posts that police found are now being cited by prosecutors, alongside more traditional recorded phone calls and written statements, as those arrested go to trial.
What kind of messages did the NYPD encounter? They vary from the straightforward—say, asking for"$200 to help purchase a .40 caliber firearm for $450"—to more ambiguous declarations like "somebody gonna get hurt real bad." And that's before you get to the rather more gruesome messages which take credit, rightly or wrongly, for stabbings and shootings.
The police caveat much of the evidence with the fact suspects "caused or permitted to be posted" the information being used against them. That neatly skirts the fact that some gang members may have posted using the accounts of others.
But regardless of what can accurately be read into individual messages, that kind of posting was enough to build a rich picture of the activities in which gangs from the two housing projects were involved in—and, in turn, allow the NYPD to conduct its biggest gang raid ever. Welcome to the future of policing. [Juvenile Justice Information Exchange via Daily Dot]
Image from Dave Hosford under Creative Commons license