Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


LAPD Wants You to Squeel On Your Neighbors

Posted on: September 18, 2008 at 11:02 a.m.

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton unveiled a new system allowing people to provide anonymous crime tips to police through text messages and the department's website.

Bratton said he hoped the new technology, which protects the sender's identity, would generate more crime tips to the LAPD from the public. "Far too often, victims and witnesses are too afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation. Today, we're changing that," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared at a news conference with Bratton.

The text message system was already used by police in New York, Boston and San Diego.

Actions like this provoke a variety of arguments regarding crime and how the police are responding to it. Attempting to recruit average citizens to become informants has constitutional implications, and may also put the lives of citizens are risk.

Tagged as: california criminal laws

Comments:

Justin Wedell on December 1, 2009 at 5:55 p.m. wrote:

Most recently, the LAPD has unveiled its “iWatch” program, a similarly Orwellian proposal of neighbors spying upon neighbors. My issue with this is the same problem I had with the short-lived TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) initiative implemented by the Bush Administration after 9/11 – both encourage unconstitutional encroachments upon citizens’ privacy. It should be the responsibility of the law enforcement and the government to ensure our safety, and to do so according to the limits we have established for them. By tapping citizens to do their work for them, these state entities seek to bypass those safeguards we have in place to protect our most basic rights. In what alternative universe would we ever allow the standard citizen to conduct private investigations, uninhibited by the need for warrants or any of the other checks we currently place on our government? They have no concept of proper evidence-gathering technique or of the limits of their possible intrusions. Some might say I’m overreacting, that programs such as iWatch are simply meant to establish a tighter sense of community and espouse the “higher ideals” of the Good Samaritan. But I would argue that sometimes, it’s those very individuals of such profound patriotic ardor that may need to be most carefully checked. A lot has been said and a lot has been done in the name of the greater good, and believe me, not all of it has truly been for the best. We should not allow our government institutions to take advantage of these individuals and use them as proxies against us. More importantly, we should not allow for ourselves to be used as tools of government oversight against one another to perpetuate any sort of narrative of security (or lack thereof). Such actions reek of a government overstepping its boundaries and seeking loopholes within the checks and balances offered by our founders. iWatch promotes unconstitutional espionage – I think I’ll text that to the LAPD.


Sheila Kouhkan- CS 174 on December 1, 2009 at 5:37 p.m. wrote:

While I agree with Mayor Villaraigosa's statements that victims and witnesses are afraid to come forward about any injustices because they worry about what may result, I do not agree with the new system installed by Chief Bratton because I feel that there will be many false accusations and assumptions made. When people know that the texts are anonymous, they may abuse the system and send tips that may not be entirely valid. This, in turn, will waste the time and energy of police officers, as well as tax dollars. I like that Bratton and Villaraigosa are progressively thinking about technology and how it can be used to decrease crime in Los Angeles. Texting is a favored means of communication by younger generations, and they may effectively use this texting tool to stop crime from taking place. But, I think that the texts should not be entirely anonymous so officers can trace the texts back to senders. If there is a false tip provided, officers should trace it back to the sender and some sort of punishment, like a fine, should be in place. People are penalized all the time for filing false police reports, and I do not believe that these false text message tips should be any different. I sense that a lot of prank texts may take place, or tips may be sent for malicious intent. To prevent this from happening, there should be some penalty for false tips and a system that is not completely anonymous to ensure that citizens use them for the right reasons.


Sheila Kouhkan- CS 174 on December 1, 2009 at 5:36 p.m. wrote:

While I agree with Mayor Villaraigosa's statements that victims and witnesses are afraid to come forward about any injustices because they worry about what may result, I do not agree with the new system installed by Chief Bratton because I feel that there will be many false accusations and assumptions made. When people know that the texts are anonymous, they may abuse the system and send tips that may not be entirely valid. This, in turn, will waste the time and energy of police officers, as well as tax dollars. I like that Bratton and Villaraigosa are progressively thinking about technology and how it can be used to decrease crime in Los Angeles. Texting is a favored means of communication by younger generations, and they may effectively use this texting tool to stop crime from taking place. But, I think that the texts should not be entirely anonymous so officers can trace the texts back to senders. If there is a false tip provided, officers should trace it back to the sender and some sort of punishment, like a fine, should be in place. People are penalized all the time for filing false police reports, and I do not believe that these false text message tips should be any different. I sense that a lot of prank texts may take place, or tips may be sent for malicious intent. To prevent this from happening, there should be some penalty for false tips and a system that is not completely anonymous to ensure that citizens use them for the right reasons.









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