At a press conference in August, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told us that the department "only monitors social media for specific investigations," which contradicted comments he made in June. And today in a speech to a gathering of police chiefs in San Diego this morning, Kelly will announce that his force will be trolling Facebook and other social media as part of Operation Crew Cut, aimed at curbing the activity of local gangs who use social media to, in Kelly's words, "add fuel to the fire."
Kelly's prepared remarks reference the 49 members of local gangs in East New York that were arrested last month ("I think you’ll appreciate the names—the Very Crispy Gangsters and the Rockstars.") after they posted Facebook comments and photos referencing crimes they had committed. Gang members "used social media to intimidate informants...post copies on Facebook of orders of protection that identified complainants," and, Kelly says, "One gang leader went so far as to call another rival from prison to chastise him about one of his members snitching."
The initiative will double the number of detectives in the Gang Division from 150 to 300, and will designate the Juvenile Justice Division as the "clearinghouse to support social media-driven investigations." Kelly says that "In addition to tracking the admissions of criminal conduct and plans of future crimes by crew members on Facebook, You Tube and elsewhere, the division will be responsible for maintaining a dictionary of sorts with continually updated lexicon employed by crews as a kind of code."
In order to ensure that officers ensnare their targets without detection, Kelly says, "Officers can adopt aliases for their online work, as long as these are registered with the department. They can also protect their anonymity by using department laptops with untraceable Internet cards."
The commissioner adds that the department has created new guidelines for monitoring social media "to instill the proper balance between the investigative potential of social network sites and privacy expectations." (We've asked the NYPD to provide us with those guidelines and will post them if we receive them.)
So if NotACop57 comments on the YouTube video of a kid smoking three blunts on the hood of a squad car, you might want to think twice before selecting that marijuana leaf emoji.