Posts tagged crime
Last year, Chicago witnessed more than 500 murders, more than both New York City and Los Angeles. While that number is declining—this year so far, the city’s murder rate is down 22 percent—much of the ongoing violence is related to gang activity, with some 630 different factions frequently battling it out across the city.
To combat gang killings, the Chicago Police Department is going door to door letting gang members know the likelihood of their demise.
According to Governing magazine, the Chicago Police Department is using a social-media based “network analysis” that maps the relationships among the 14,000 most active gang members in the city. The results show how likely they are to kill or be killed as a result of gang violence. As the magazine put it:
The CPD has discovered something striking: Cities don’t so much have “hot spots” as “hot people.”
The network analysis determined that people in the gang networks are three or four hundred times more likely to be a victim of murder than the average citizen, Deputy Chief Robert Tracy told Governing.
The police department worked with a local sociologist to develop the social mapping strategy, that documents and predicts behaviors similar to how platforms like Facebook and Twitter track our relationships and conversations. The network analysis is like a real-life version of Facebook’s Graph Search, the social search tool that analyzes likes, connections and conversations to produce user-specific search results:
[T]he department built a model to help it identify Chicago’s “hottest” residents—that is, the likeliest to be involved in violence. The model includes such variables as how many times a person had been shot, how many times a person had been contact-carded, whether he had any gun convictions and whether he was on probation or parole. By the spring, they had identified a top 20 list for each of the city’s 22 police districts.
The police department and an organization called Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy then teamed up to knock on doors with a one-two punch of a message. Police tell these identified “habitual offenders” and known gang members that they could face heavy federal—not state—charges for any future offenses, news that comes as a surprise to some. But the teams also warn their targets that they’re at risk of murder themselves, and that their families and communities want them alive.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But Chicago authorities believe their outreach may be helping reduce the murder rate.
Yet what social analysis giveth, social media can taketh away. Because while the CPD and dedicated organizations work social networks to lower the murder rate, top gang members are using Facebook and Twitter to taunt one another—and to brag about the resulting violence.
Fighting Crime Online
Last year, violence in the streets spilled over into a Twitter war. Two main Chicago gang factions, the Black Disciples (#BDK) and the Gangster Disciples (#GDK), emerged as trending topics on Twitter after an online dispute led to the shooting of 18-year-old JoJo, a Gangster Disciples member.
According to Wired, the teen’s murder led to a number of retaliation killings and outcry on social media, including YouTube and Facebook. There’s even a term for gang members who cause trouble on social media. They’re called “Facebook drillers,” a play on “drilling” someone—i.e., shooting them.
In the Bay Area, home to some of the top social networks, the San Francisco Police Department finds social media tools can be helpful in capturing and targeting criminals.
“We have used social media—Facebook and Twitter—to capture criminals by obtaining tips or snapshots of suspects and sending out the image to the media to identify suspects and make arrest,” said a spokesperson for the police department.
They’re not the only law enforcement agency using social media to find offenders. According to a survey from the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Center for Social Media, 92 percent of law enforcement agencies use some form of social media. The survey found that 90 percent use Facebook, 50 percent use Twitter and 27 percent use YouTube.
But the Chicago Police Department is going a step further by taking the social mapping concepts sites like Facebook use and apply them to crime fighting in its community. (An interagency group in Boston did something similar by mapping gang feuds and relationships in the early 1990s, well before social media came into currency.)
The good news, if you can call it that, is that escalating violence broadcast on social media provides more fodder for ongoing network analysis. It’s far from clear that predicting gang members’ deaths will actually cause them to change their behavior, but it’s at least raising awareness among active members that their actions do translate into real and drastic consequences, perhaps much earlier than they think.
Photo courtesy U.S. Marshals Service, via Flickr
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If you haven’t heard, we’re in the midst of a rampant and sometimes violent iPhone crime wave. In San Francisco, smartphone theft accounts for nearly half of all robberies in the city. Most of these are iPhones. In New York City, there were more than 11,000 thefts of Apple products – mostly iPhones - in just the first eight months of last year. This represented a 40% rise over 2011, far higher than the rise in other crimes.
Blow Up Your iPhone
Fortunately, I have a modest proposal for a simple and definitive solution to this problem: iPhones rigged to burst into flames or even explode. You steal my iPhone, it catches fire or blows up in your hand.
So go on, punk. Steal my iPhone. Let’s see how many fingers you have come morning. Once word gets around, this problem will self correct in very short order. What better iPhone theft deterrent could there be than a city filled with petty criminals – all with stumps where a hand used to be?
Reasonably Priced Protection
The cost would be quite reasonable. Lithium ion batteries are already prone to radical overheating. If a flaming iphone that melts the thief’s fingers isn’t a strong enough deterrent, gunpowder is cheap, and could easily be engineered into the iPhone 6. Meanwhile, exploding cases could be built to retrofit older models. Look at it this way, what’s another $50 or so for the privilege of having a true remote wipe feature?
True, the theft victim is still out an iPhone, but that was a foregone conclusion anyway. Within moments the thief had likely placed an “almost new” iPhone listing on eBay. But the former owner can focus instead on the joy of knowing that the criminal paid an even higher price for that no longer-working iPhone.
Help From Carriers And Smartphone Vendors?
Besides, as noted, once flaming iPhones become the standard, thefts will likely taper off very quickly. In the meantime, perhaps the mobile carriers would be willing to thank us for our help in stopping crime. No, they probably won’t let you out of your contract – they’re not crazy – but they might offer heroic vigilantes (nee victims) a free replacement device.
I wouldn’t look to Apple for help, though. Despite the iPhone crime wave, the company has done precious little to protect the products so far, and that’s not likely to change. After all, Apple actually benefits every time an iPhone is stolen – mostly likely the vic buys a replacement device at the full, non-subsidized price. What? Is Apple supposed to not sell you another iPhone?
My proposal has wider benefits as well. No doubt there would also be a radical drop in pickpocketing and other two-handed crimes. And wouldn’t it be useful to have immediate, obvious evidence of who the thieves are? The police could quickly shift their focus to fighting more important crimes.
Now, some of you may object that flaming iPhones are dangerous. That the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. That innocent people could get hurt.
Sure, fires are hard to control. But isn’t that the point here?
And sure, losing a few fingers may seem harsh (it’ll be hard to use a touch screen even on a legitimately purchased device), but anyone who’s ever had an iPhone stolen probably wished for even worse things to happen to the thief.
Finally, if bystanders don’t want to get hurt, they can just avoid standing by iPhone thieves. And just like gun owners are encouraged to lock up their firearms so kids don’t get their hands on them, a little care should keep most of the little ones from using Mommy’s iPhone to play games without telling her about it. If not, they’ll figure it out when little Johnny down the street has to learn to bat left-handed at stickball.
In the end, what’s a little collateral damage compared to making sure my iPhone is safe? Heck, if this takes off, you can bet that Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and the rest won’t be far behind. Pretty soon the entire smartphone market will be exploding. That’s a good thing, right?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Like numbers? Here’s some for your morning coffee… 2,904. 10. 2.4 million.
Those numbers are integral to what federal prosecutors in Brooklyn allege occurred on February 19, when a team of eight men scattered throughout the Borough of Manhattan to make 2,904 ATM withdraws in the space of 10 hours, making off with about $2.4 million in New York alone.
The heist was part of a larger global plot implemented at the same time that raked in about $45 million, all told.
According to the indictment, the eight-person team in New York was the final stage in a process that first involved hackers gaining access to an Indian credit card processing vendor and then eliminating the limits on prepaid MasterCard accounts. Using the unlimited cards, teams around the world raided bank ATMs for cash before they financial institutions knew what hit them.
The New York Times has more details on the ATM spree, which may be a taste of what’s to come as banks and credit card companies keep falling victim to criminal ingenuity.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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There has been some excitement about the idea of using technology to address the problems of the Mexican Drug War. As someone involved in technology, I find it inspiring that other techies are trying to do something to end the conflict. However, I also worry when I read ideas based on flawed assumptions. For example, the assumption that “good guys” just need a safe way to report the “bad guys” to the cops reduces the Mexican reality to a kid’s story, where lines are easily and neatly drawn.
So, here are a few reasons why building tools to enable citizens to report crime in Mexico is problematic and even dangerous.
- Anonymity does not depend only on encryption. Criminals do not need to rely on advanced crypto-techniques when information itself is enough to figure out who leaked it. Similar ideas are being discussed by researchers trying to figure out how to identiy future Wikileaks-like collaborators, something they call Fog Computing. The point is, the social dynamics around the Drug War in Mexico mean that people are exposed when they post something local. In an era of big data, it’s easy to piece things together, even if the source is encrypted. And, sadly, when terror is your business, getting it wrong doesn’t matter as much.
- Criminal organizations, law enforcement, and even citizens are not independent entities. Organized crime has co-opted individuals, from the highest levels of government down to average citizens working with them on the side– often referred to as “halcones.”
- Apprehensions do not lead to convictions. According to some data, “78% of crimes go unreported in Mexico, and less than 1% actually result in convictions.” Mexico is among those countries with the highest indices of impunity, even with high-profile cases such as the murder of journalists. All this is partly because of high levels of corruption.
- Criminal organizations have already discovered how to manipulate law enforcement against their opponents–there is even a term for it: “calentar la plaza“– the sudden increase of extreme violence in locations controlled by the opposite group, with the sole purpose of catching the attention of the military, which eventually takes over, and weakens the enemy.
The failure of crowdsourcing became evident only a few weeks ago with a presidential election apparently plagued with irregularities. Citizens actively crowdsourced reports of electoral fraud and subsequently uploaded the evidence to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Regardless of whether those incidents would affect the final result of the election, the institutions in charge seem to have largely ignored the reports. One can only imagine what would happen with the report of highly profitable crimes like drug trafficking.
Crowdsourcing is not entirely flawed in the Mexican context, though. We have seen people in various Mexican cities organize organically to alert one another of violent events, in real time. But these urban crisis management networks do not need institutions to function. However, law enforcement does, unless one is willing to accept lynching and other types of crowd-based law enforcement.
In sum, as Damien Cave mentioned, what Mexico needs is institutions, and the people willing to change the culture of impunity. Technologies that support this kind of change would be more effective than those imagined with a “first world” mindset.
Thanks to danah boyd for helping me think through some of these ideas.
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Search Engine Land
How Big Data Changed Crime Fighting & Is Changing The Practice Of SEO
Search Engine Land
Driven by mature technology that gathers, stores and analyzes natural search data over time and allows for segmentation on a 'neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis', this information empowers SEO professionals to discern trends and communicate, …
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In the mid 1990’s, New York city Mayor Rudolph Giuliani introduced a technology-based crime measurement system called CompStat. The system enabled Police leadership, for the first time, to discern crime trends and respond to crime fluctuations on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis rather than the…
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A limited study of 50 convicted burglars in the U.K. reveals what most of us knew already: if you tweet or post a Facebook status about your vacation in Cancun, a criminal in your hometown may target your house for a break-in. He or she may even use Google Street View to case the joint.
But law enforcement is fighting back, solving crimes using the same social media that makes it easy for people to become victims. The Boston Globe reports in today’s editions that the Boston Police Department has had “amazing” results with its use of social media and its Text-A-Tip campaigns.
One of the biggest lessons for cops on social media? Try not to sound like cops.
“We’re police; we like to tell people things and sound very official,” BPD spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll told the newspaper. “But we realized it might be a good idea to be less formal, to use less police-speak.”
That has meant the department has taken a more casual tone in its blog posts and on its Twitter feed, which The Globe reports has more Twitter followers than any other local law enforcement agency in the U.S. In addition to hash-tag campaigns such as #MostWantedMonday, police in the Hub are using a simple SMS program that allows people to make anonymous tips about unsolved crimes with a simple text message.
“I have two daughters; they’re 15 and 13,” said Officer Michael Charbonnier, program director of the department’s Crime Stoppers Unit. “Everything for them is Facebook and texting. Even my son tells me, ‘Why do you still email? That’s so old-fashioned.’”
Of course, the law enforcement rush to social media isn’t sitting well with targets, privacy groups or the social networks themselves. In addition to concerns about how federal agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have been monitoring social networks, the BPD has had its own run-ins, including a highly publicized case in which Twitter ignored a request to keep an investigation of Occupy Boston protesters under wraps.
“The concept that the government would somehow be monitoring and storing inquiries of individual Web activities – many would find that disconcerting,” Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, told Politico. “We’re still concerned about who actually was directing the investigators to make specific inquiries.”
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Whether or not jailbreaking or rooting one’s smartphone is a legal act isn’t something most of us in the U.S. have had to think about for some time. That’s because, in 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office declared that jailbreaking devices is not a violation of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Fine, said Apple, but it will still void your warranty and we bet it will screw up your phone.
Despite the company’s official disapproval, jailbreaking iOS is still big among a certain subset of users, as evidenced by the popularity of the A5 Absinthe tool that was released last Friday. But should people in the jailbreak community continue to rest easy, assured that freeing their devices will forever remain legal? Probably not.
That’s because the notion that jailbreaking is legally acceptable wasn’t established by, say, a Supreme Court ruling and all of the weight of legal authority that that would entail. Instead, it was a directive from the U.S. Copyright Office. So the thing can expire. That could happen soon, warns the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen, says the EFF, is for everyone to let the Copyright Office know that they would prefer to see jailbreaking remain legal, and why. There’s a comment form that lets them do that.
In addition to smartphones, the EFF wants the Copyright Office to add exemptions for tablets and video game consoles as well. Two years ago, the tablet market simply wasn’t what it is today, let alone the jailbreak community around it.
Video game consoles have been hacked and modded for years, but more recent tinkering with Microsoft’s Kinect in particular has brought the true potential of the technology to the forefront. Even though Microsoft itself has embraced Kinect-hacking, the EFF doesn’t want to let this kind of user-modification of game consoles slip through the legal cracks.
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Maybe Marc Goodman’s talk from the Strata Summit on the business of illegal data grabbed me because I just finished watching the entire series of The Sopranos from start to finish last week. But even if you don’t have a penchant for mob shows, Goodman’s talk is worth the time to watch.
As we wax on about the wonders of big data, Goodman reminds us “the more data you produce, the more criminals are happy to receive what you produce.”
Much of that, he says, is stolen by organized crime. Goodman says 85% of data stolen is stolen by organized crime.
The criminal underground, says Goodman, has already figured out systems to take advantage of data. Whether that’s data with obvious value like credit card information, or not so obvious. Goodman says that “social data is great for criminal underground.” How do they get it? Two main ways, one is malware. The other? Social engineering.
Business of Stolen Data
You know how prices for legitimate data services tend to normalize? Amazon and Rackspace, for example, price their cloud storage offerings pretty similarly. Well, Goodman says that stolen data has fairly standard pricing as well. In the market for stolen data, $10 will get you a stolen credit card with a $25,000 limit. For $700, you can get a bank account with a $82,000 balance.
The “good” news? A big one like the Sony PlayStation breach means that it drives the price down for data. Just like any other market, there’s supply and demand – and a big flood of data drives the price down.
The Sony PlayStation Network hack got a great deal of attention, but it turns out that it’s not even the biggest breach recently. Heartland Payment Systems was hacked to the tune of 130 million records in January 2009. TJX Companies were breached in 2007 for 94 million. Sony was “only” 77 million accounts. (You have to wonder how many unfortunate folks had their data compromised with Sony, Heartland and TJX.)
Crime as a Service
How do criminals scale? Goodman says “crimeware” is available, and there’s a full “illicit data supply chain” that happens across different organized crime groups around the world. Because there’s not enough acronyms in the world, Goodman calls this Crime as a Service (CaaS). This includes free demos, service level agreements (SLAs) and discounts for buying in bulk.
Even more impressive, or scary depending on your point of view, is that Goodman says that some CaaS providers offer 800 numbers to support their software.
Terrorist Use of Data
He also talks about terrorist use of data to plan attacks, and says that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were “the most technologically advanced attack planed by a terrorist organization to date.” What was different, says Goodman, was that terrorists were mining data in real time during the attack. Goodman’s final story will make you think a little more carefully about the information you put online.
Take a few minutes to watch Goodman’s talk, it’s definitely something to think about.
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F-Secure released an infographic called “Online Shoppers Beware: What’s Lurking in Your Online Holiday Gift Purchase?”. Some interesting data: Top six online retailers – Expected Amazon, but was shocked by a few others 21 Million people will shop from mobile devices 53% of smartphone users will use their device to research – I use my [...]
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