NYPD’s Operation Crew Cut: Facebook Our Most Reliable Informant

If snitches get stitches, you and your Facebook account better watch out — the NYPD has admitted that social media is putting more suspected criminals behind bars than blabbermouths on the street, thanks to the human tendency to brag about everything.

It’s long been known that the NYPD and other major city forces rely on social media chatter to make connections and even gather evidence — some big arrests have been helped, in part, by use of openly shared or gathered information on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

A new New York Times piece touches on the practice of using social media in the course of investigations. It should be noted that the State of New York is the first where a legal opinion on the practice of social media evidence gathering was published — and that the state’s Bar Association made strong suggestions about deceptively gathering info on services like Facebook and Twitter.

But it appears that the issue isn’t even one of ethics — criminals tend to broadcast involvement in ways police can use, and publicly. The Timesexplains:

“The strategy seeks to exploit the online postings of suspected members and their digital connections to build criminal conspiracy cases against whole groups that might otherwise take years of painstaking undercover work to penetrate. Facebook, officers like to say now, is the most reliable informer.”

The piece continues, explaining that the NYPD can use existing and easily discovered connections to tie up cases and speed through investigations legally, adding:

“Operation Crew Cut melds intelligence gathered by officers on the street with online postings, allowing the department to track emerging conflicts in a neighborhood before they erupt into violence and, when shootings do occur, to build conspiracy cases against those responsible. But the scrutiny online has raised concern that idle chatter by teenagers might be misinterpreted by the police.”

Critics say that like much criticism lobbed at the NYPD, the practice is a blunt, brute force and sometimes sweeps in the innocent — but like stop and frisk, it’s unlikely even if sanctioned that the Department will let go of such a fruitful strategy without a fight.


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