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Chicago PD cites social media as cause of early 2016 violent crime spike

Social media is a truly ubiquitous tool that has moved beyond its initial function as a platform to connect with family and friends. Social networks are now communication tools that fill a variety of purposes, from customers interacting with businesses to criminals discussing illegal activities with each other and rival gang members escalating turf disputes. Police departments must recognize the value of information posted on social media and draw on it to learn more about potential criminal activity and diffuse situations before they escalate. A recent spate of violent incidents in Chicago has been caused in part by social media, according to city law enforcement officers.

Social media monitoring makes efforts to track potentially criminal discussions on social media far more effective

A tough start to 2016
Chicago police contended with increased violence since the start of 2016, with an increase in shootings and other violent incidents as compared to the average for recent years. Specifically, local CBS affiliate WWMT reported a total of 127 people shot in the first two weeks of the new year, which led to 21 fatalities. The Chicago Police Department believes social media played a major role in a significant number of these violent attacks, as well as others that didn't rise to the level of firearms use. John Escalante, Chicago Police Department Interim Superintendent, said criminals had engaged in taunting and similar behavior on social media prior to some of the violent acts.

"It is the new way of, and has been for the last two years, of taunting and challenging other gangs. And it's the modern way of gang graffiti," Escalante said at a press conference covered by WWMT.

Territory is one of the basic blocks of gang feuds and social media may fan the flames of such issues. The immediacy of contact provided by social networks and the ability to remotely escalate aggressive interactions until they boil over into physical altercations create volatile conditions.

"Social media monitoring software takes the onerous task of manually examining social posts and automates the more rote aspects of the work."


Fighting back with better information gathering, recognition
Chicago's law enforcement officers are responding to the uptick in violence and the correlation with social media by utilizing a dedicated team, local news station WGN reported. The group analyzes social media interactions and looks for potential conflicts, especially when they know tensions are heightened in the area. WGN said it's difficult for the social media team to notice or investigate every single instance of violence, however, because it's functionally impossible.

There are ways for law enforcement organizations to improve their crime control efforts as they relate to social media, however. Social media monitoring software takes the onerous task of manually examining social posts and automates the more rote aspects of the work. With efficient and effective search and notification measures, officers have more time to spend focused on tasks requiring critical thinking. NC4 Signal offers law enforcement organizations the ability to leverage social media to their advantage, making many monitoring processes automatic and passing valuable information onto officers for quick response and further analysis as dictated by the situation.


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