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Keeping up with crime

Joe

Polito

COMMENTARY

As criminals learn new ways to commit crimes, police must find new ways to prevent them. Whether through increased incentives, improved communication or surveillance, law enforcement officials around the world are coming up with fresh ways to fight back. The Oracle looks at some of the groundbreaking techniques being used to prevent crime.

Guns

Last month, police in Clearwater joined many other cities across the country in offering money for unwanted firearms.

According to tbo.com, gun owners could bring in weapons anonymously June 10 and receive a $50 gift card for handguns and $100 gift cards for assault weapons. After checking them against weapons used in recent crimes, police incinerated 320 unwanted guns.

Visit neighborhoodscout.com to get a glimpse of Tampa’s crime statistics, and you’ll see why police are taking new measures to get guns off the streets. According to data on the site, Tampa is only safer than 2 percent of U.S. cities. Also, someone in Tampa is more than twice as likely to be a victim of a violent crime than the average Florida resident.

The incentive-based crime prevention plan has been used elsewhere in the country as well. According to wwmt.com, police in Kalamazoo, Mich., will offer weeklong amnesty and gas gift cards worth $25 to $100 in exchange for unwanted guns. Techniques such as these suggest that paying people to not commit crimes is a viable option.

Social Media

In April, a man walked into a Hillsborough County convenience store, stole a can of Four Loko and then proceeded to beat the store clerk with it once he was confronted for the theft. The robber probably knew that his actions would be recorded. What he might not have suspected is that it would go viral.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, law enforcement officials posted the surveillance footage on YouTube to aid in the apprehension of the Four Loko bandit. Two days later, police arrested the man based on a call they received from one of the hundreds of people who saw the 51-second video.

Tampa law enforcement officials have recently used YouTube, Facebook and Twitter consistently in an effort to generate steady tips, according to the Times.

Communication between police and citizens is facilitated by these popular websites. Those interested in helping identify criminals can watch surveillance videos or comment on information posted.

Surveillance

Imagine living out every facet of life with the feeling that someone is watching you. That feeling might become a reality for the 31 million residents of Chongqing, China.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that networking company Cisco planned to sell the Chinese government networking equipment needed to install up to 500,000 surveillance cameras across 400 square miles in the city to monitor crime.

But under the pressure of public scrutiny, Cisco’s general counsel Marc Chandler said in a blog post, “Cisco has not and will not sell video surveillance cameras or video management software in its public infrastructure projects in China.” He said that while the company was offered the option, they chose to decline it.

The same company whose commercials portray school children excitedly communicating overseas in the classroom via “the human network” nearly became the mother of a real-life “Big Brother.”

Last year, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office officials vamped up security by installing 20 surveillance cameras in the University area. According to a 2010 Oracle article, the wireless cameras can capture license plates and are attached to electric poles marked by a flashing blue light.

They were funded by a $1 million federal grant with aims to “lower the crime statistics in the surrounding neighborhood … concentrating on violent crime and drug sales,” said HCSO Major James Burton in a video on the department’s website. If crime increases, we might have cities add surveillance to the scale of Chongqing, China, providing an all-seeing eye over the population.