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YouTube (and Dumb-Witted Criminals) Prove Valuable to Law Enforcement

By: Gerri L. Elder

All over the world, it seems that people who commit crimes are aiding police in making arrests and hurting their criminal defense attorneys simply by using a popular internet site, YouTube.com.

With cameras practically watching our every move and groans about Big Brother everywhere, it’s pretty much a given that lots of things are now caught on camera. But some criminals don’t take any chances of having the right camera angle missed, so they often record their crimes themselves. Then they post the videos on YouTube.

What they fail to realize is that the Internet is not a big anonymous place. While a person may not post a video using their real name, all Internet activity can be traced back to an IP address, and that IP address can be traced to a computer. Law enforcement officers and detectives can easily find users who post videos boasting their criminal behavior; it’s not rocket science.

Recently, two alleged gang members from Miami posted a video on YouTube of themselves taunting the police to come and get them. The pair posed with assault rifles and made threats against the police. Of course, the police did go and get them, and they were arrested for making threats against police officers and on weapons charges, and now face between 15 and 30 years in prison each.

Another criminal duo, this time from Wisconsin, were arrested after they posted a stellar YouTube video of themselves having some fun with a stolen police Taser gun. The Taser gun was stolen out of a police car on New Year’s Day by a 22-year old man who was in the police car to get warm after he had run his car into a ditch. Just hours after he had stolen the Taser gun, the man posted a video on YouTube of he and his father shooting each other with it.

Since the officer who had helped the man after he crashed his car checked his identification before giving the man and his friends a ride, it wasn’t terribly difficult for police to track him down and charge him with stealing the Taser gun. The YouTube video will certainly make defending his case problematic for his criminal lawyer, but I’m sure he and his dad (what a great role model!) weren’t really thinking about that while they were Tasing each other and posting the video online.

Police are asking that the man who stole the Taser gun be put on trial for disarming a peace officer and possession of an electric weapon, which are felony offenses, and carrying a concealed electronic weapon and theft, which are misdemeanor offenses.

In California, two 14-year-old fans of MySpace and YouTube were arrested for suspicion of conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon after posting their video masterpiece, which featured them beating a 13-year-old girl. The victim wasn’t hospitalized after the incident but she did suffer some bruises, abrasions and cuts when the two older girls dragged her by her hair, kicked, punched and spat on her.

Police are seeking two more girls in connection with the incident: the person who filmed the beating and another who allegedly stood by and watched while the beating happened. Three video clips, totaling about 7 minutes, were posted online on both YouTube and MySpace.

These three examples of recent crime videos posted and shared online are only a cross-section of the many documented cases in which YouTube and MySpace videos have been used as a tool for law enforcement.

It seems odd that any person would publicize proof of themselves committing a crime, but the fact is that it happens more than you’d think. It bears mentioning one more time that the Internet is by no means anonymous. If a person is bold enough to post a video of themselves committing a crime, they should fully expect for police to catch up with and arrest them.


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