As another resource in the fight against rising crime in Philadelphia, city police are increasing their monitoring of social media posts.
As reported by WHYY, Cpl. Jasmine Reilly, a police spokesperson, said they are trying to intervene with anticipation to avoid criminal actions. “By taking a more proactive monitoring approach, we hope to intervene early and avoid a tragedy playing out on the street,” stated Reilly.
Monitoring social media is not a new practice for the Philadelphia Police. In fact, the Department has been using this too since 2008. But the surge in gun violence during recent months has led the police to increase its use.
The police are hoping that monitoring more social media posts will cause more arrests and potentially save lives by stopping shootings before they even take place.
However, this surveillance tool is not well received by all citizens. As an example of this, some anti-violence activists are skeptical of the police’s ability to monitor the posts.
James Aye, co-founder of YEAH Philly, a youth empowerment nonprofit, believes the Police Department needs a community connected work to fight crime effectively.“They definitely need a community partner, someone who really understands that generation, that community, especially around social media,”
“There’s already over-policing in our communities and now there can be a sense that there’s over-policing in our virtual worlds,” adds Aye.
The Police Department would not reveal how many employees are assigned to monitor social posts nor explain how the department determines who to monitor.
Kendra Van de Water, executive director of YEAH Philly, agrees that the gun violence statistics from this past year are concerning. However, she agrees with Aye that the police may not be the correct group to monitor social media.
She believes that detectives and analysts are too disconnected from the communities they would be monitoring and that added social media monitoring could add to the distrust between these communities and police.
The Brookings Institute also states the there are few specific laws in place to constrain law enforcement’s use of social media monitoring.