UK cops don't play.
If you're one of the many mayhem-makers who brutalized London over the past week — your thuggery immortalized by the country's ubiquitous closed-circuit TV cameras — the police will find you, and summarily shame you. And they'll do it with the most efficient technology available in their ranks.
Even now, mobile advertising vans are driving around London, projecting digital images of suspected looters. Those same images are also projected on giant screens at Piccadilly Gardens and the Printworks as part of the Greater Manchester Police Department's (GMP) "Shop a Looter" campaign. The campaign (Twitter hashtag #shopalooter) asks citizens to help authorities identify the culprits.
("Shop," by the way, is an informal British verb for "to put in prison" or "to inform on," and should not be confused with the riot-related website Photoshoplooter, which uses photos to humiliate vandals in a whole different way — via Photoshop.)
Once convicted, said culprits can look forward to having their names, date of birth, partial addresses and crimes sent out over Twitter — "DOBs so that there can be no mis-identification with someone of the same name," @gmpolice tweeted in reply to someone who asked.
It's not like they weren't warned.
"Criminals still going through the courts now — tomorrow they'll be named and shamed," read a Thursday tweet from the GMP's Twitter account.
Then on Friday, this tweet: "We promised we’d name all those convicted for their roles in the disorder — here we go …" And the names started to roll.
Aaron Grima (born 31/05/1989), of Cromwell Road, Eccles, was jailed for four months for assaulting a police officer.
Ricky Gemmell (born 12/02/1993), of Buckley Road, Manchester, sentenced to four months in youth custody for ranting and swearing at police.
Stefan Hoyle (born 27/01/1992) of St. Stephen Street, Salford, jailed for four months for theft after found with a stolen violin.
Even if you're a minor exempt from the "named" portion of the punishment, the GMP still manages to hit you with the "shamed," as with this tweet: "14-year-old boy just charged with burglary after mum saw his picture in a newspaper and dragged him to a police station."
But is it legal? "Lot of debate about publishing details — courts very clear, justice should be done publicly," the GMP tweeted in response to such a question. One Twitter user suggested the GMP's time is better served on the streets rather than Twitter, but the majority of the responses are supportive.
"@gmpolice couldn't agree more these thugs have to face the consequences of their actions if that means others knowing how low they r tough!" one follower enthused on Twitter.
The GMP is, in fact, better served using Twitter. The department used it to great success last year to bring attention to impending budget cuts by tweeting every 999 call (the UK version of 911) the department received in a 24-hour period.
Since the "disturbances," the GMP has been actively communicating with the community, answering questions, updating safety issues, dispelling rumors, and of course, tweeting out info on the convicted parties and their crimes. In between those tasks are #shopalooter tweets, directing followers toward Flickr photo streams featuring closed-circuit TV screen grabs. Both Manchester and London have them.
The Flickr streams are leading to arrests, the UK cops say, and it seems the Shop a Looter Vans are off to a good start too, at least according to today's tweet from GMP Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, who posted this earlier today: "We said we were coming to get the criminals. 5 members of the public identified a male from Shop A Looter van — just arrested him in Clayton."
The GMP know better than to wait for the Internet to come to them, however. As this tweet reveals, they do know where to look: "Just locked up another man for stolen goods after he bragged on Facebook he couldn't be caught. Wrong."
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