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NYC Mayor Encourages Citizens to Capture Crime with Cell Phone Cameras
Taking a cue from program in Indiana, new technology would allow callers to send crime-scene images

Newsday | January 18, 2007
LUIS PEREZ

Smile, you're on 911.

Catching criminals in the act these days is sometimes as easy as pressing a button on your camera phone.

Now the city is moving to simplify your ability to share telltale evidence of subway flashers, house burglars or even a suspect pothole, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday.

"If you see a crime in progress or a dangerous building condition, you'll be able to transmit images to 911 or online to nyc.gov," Bloomberg said in his State of the City address.

Bloomberg, who introduced the city to the 311 information hotline during his tenure, called the project "a revolutionary innovation. "

Actually, the state of Indiana has already begun a plan to revamp its 911 networks and allow citizens to transmit images wirelessly to emergency responders.

Still, New York City would be in the vanguard of the 911 technology wave when it implements upgrades over the next several years.

"Information is the bedrock of good law enforcement," said John A. Feinblatt, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator.

"The more information that the police have and the more quickly that they get it, the more likely that they are going to fight a crime. "

The city has yet to secure a contract to implement the technology, a mayoral spokeswoman said.

In concept, the system will use technology that is already used by millions of cell phone users every day, Feinblatt said.

"It's basically technology that exists that matches words with pictures," he said, citing the popularity of cell phone text-messaging and video-sharing sites such as YouTube. "It could be done through a Web site or it could be done through text-messaging. "

In just one of many cell phone justice stories, two Catholic schoolgirls surprised a subway flasher by snapping his mug with their camera phone in 2005. They provided the photos to police, who tracked down and arrested the man.

New York City has already begun using video to fight crime. The police department has begun a $9.1-million project to install 500 cameras in 200 locations.

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