Feb 03, 2009 - 3 Comments - Uncategorized -

The Online Detective

detectiveAfter watching a movie called Michael Clayton I was struck by this idea of collaborative detective work or perhaps a crowd sourcing detective network would be a better term, to help solve crimes or cases that puzzled detectives and remained unsolved. Many movies follow this concept. Where someone who knew something and was able to share their opinion or share what they knew whether factually correct or not it could certainly be collected and be taken into consideration and have the potential to help solve a case, lead to a clue or discredit a witness for example.

That being said even if general users who knew nothing about a particular topic were able to view evidence of a certain unsolved case detectives find puzzling. The well known theory of where a fresh pair of eyes can see more than a tired pair i would think would be very useful to the police services that protect us. The way to implement this is however tricky and there are undoubtedly areas where this idea could fail entirely. But nonetheless i do think it should be thought about more heavily and be taken into consideration.

This is already being done in many ways such as youtube postings of missing persons or videos regarding information about a certain case. Hoping that putting that information to a youtube audience may help the investigators gain a clue that perhaps will solve their case or lead to solving it. Such as a case with the Greater Manchester’s Police youtube channel  (1). Also the way in which Canadian police used to help they’re search on a missing girls case (2).

There is much scope for development here. I believe this is just the beginning in the way police services will interact with a community online. Allowing users to watch videos is very passive way but but it’s a start and I’d like to think that in the near future the idea very proactive police work by humble diligent citizen to keep the peace and be vigilant in tackling crimes in their local area in this way has much potential to succeed. Imagine if every area in your country, every borough, county, city or town had a youtube channel like this for example to keep you aware to give you information or to ask for help or to show you what is going on in your area. Like Avon and Somerset Police for example (3). I really think there is huge potential to develop a community based around this and like to think that most governments or town councils should be thinking in this way perhaps. For example a system that gathers evidences, clues and potential leads that detectives have gathered and show them to an online (trusted) group of online users who perhaps have expertise or knew the victims or criminals and are willing to help to catch the crook or solve the case. These users look at clues and recorded statements and try to come up with theories of they’re own or perhaps expand ones that detectives are already thinking of. Yes the users aren’t trained detectives and but the potential for this idea to work is huge. Citizens are allowed to make a citizens arrest and then the police come and take over. Why couldn’t that idea be applied here? To an online database of unsolved cases that could potentially be solved by a controlled group of users who may have relevant information or industry knowledge of the case at hand.

However it could potentially be used to lead police down a dead end if an unworthy or shady user takes part or those aiding and abetting a criminal do. I would assume that personal backgrounds would be checked and users toughly vetted if a system like this were to potentially succeed. Having a very closely monitored group of users who have a very clean history.

You could even delve into a pre-cognition concept in where a community of users could essentially tag a person depending on their criminal history and they’re background and predict whether he’s likely or and unlikely candidate to commit a crime in the future. That person could be one to watch or keep a close eye on or someone to talk to if he was related or knew someone who has committed a crime or is in the police’s radar. A facebook for criminals if you will.

We could call them collaborative crowd sourced consultants of her majesty’s police force.

1. Youtube (2006) [internet] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/user/gmpolice Accessed 3rd of February 2009
2. CBC News (2007) [internet] Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2007/02/01/youtube-missinggirl.html Accessed 3rd of February 2009
3. Youtube (2007) [internet] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/user/ASPolice Accessed 3rd of February 2009