Can a community solve crime?


Increasingly, communities are turning to technology to help solve problems that the police cannot, or do not want, to address. So here’s what I did: I connected, joining a growing number of people who use local networks to solve crimes that have affected them, such as theft, reckless driving, and even plant thefts.

One in 10 posts on the Nextdoor Neighborhood Network site is related to crime and police issues. It had about 800 neighbors on that platform and was also in several neighborhood groups on Facebook, whose members totaled 74,000. In all, my description of the attack on Zoey was shared hundreds of times. By circulating information about it, my neighbors and I were participating in a ritual that is only modern in terms of the technology on which it is based now.

In the UK, as elsewhere, collective action is filling a gap left by declining police presence. An important reason for this is that budget cuts have forced a nearly 23% drop in the police workforce, according to Unison, the country’s largest union. The London Metropolitan Police has been the hardest hit, with more than 3,000 jobs lost between 2012 and 2016. This includes 3,350 jobs for community support officers, a role created specifically to make the police more visible. These agents had been hired to work with the community, says Menaal Munshey, a United Nations criminologist. “But due to the cuts, this link has been broken. And the community feels like it’s alone. “

Probably this frustration is the reason why the anonymous informants chose to contact me, a complete stranger, instead of going to the police. Apparently, previous appeals to the police had fallen on deaf ears.

Of course, this exchange of information is not always good. A study published last year by Dutch academics Ronald van Steden and Shanna Mehlbaum confirmed what is already being observed: neighborhood groups have “undesirable social and moral byproducts” such as discrimination, stigmatization, exclusion of strangers and excessive social control. “If people are constantly encouraged to be aware of anything and anyone“ out of the ordinary, ”this process can slowly but surely open the door for hard surveillance practices to be introduced into the normal life of This, in turn, stimulates the erection of a digital pickaxe, a witch hunt for (subject) peophiles, exclusive forms of “strange danger” and other potentials for voyeuristic mafia activism. it is difficult to recognize that the democratic values ​​of openness, tolerance and mutual respect are at stake here ”.



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