We’ve already seen how the public has been drafted in to help bust people trafficking across the US/Mexico border; turns out that law enforcement agencies in Arkansas and Texas are using web mashups to enable members of the public to track down the perps of other forms of crime:
Law enforcement agencies have longed relied on the press and the public to help catch crooks, of course. And some departments, like the NYPD, upload their “wanted” posters. But BanditTrackerArkansas.com — and its sister site for Texas, BanditTracker.com — are a little different and a little more sophisticated. Descriptions of the suspect and the crime are paired with pictures from the bank’s surveillance cameras, both indoor and out. The whole thing is then plotted on a Google Map.
The scheme seems to be in its infancy at the moment, but I doubt it’ll stay that way for long; budget restraints will mean a continued shortage of law enforcement officers, but there’ll probably be no shortage of people willing to do their bit to nab the baddies.
Somehow, I find this a lot less sinister than the border-watch systems; it smacks of a more honest sense of community. That said, it also has greater potential for some quick and dirty hacking, whether it be to protect a criminal from pursuit or to frame someone innocent…