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Police use Facebook to crack down on guns in Brooklyn

An NYPD social media team is cleaning up Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood by tracking guns on Facebook.


Jordan Valinsky


Posted on Feb 7, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 1:47 am CDT

Since the New York Police Department ramped up its usage of social media to monitor crime early last year, it’s been successful in cracking down on violence.

Officers based in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville have confiscated more guns than their peers due in part to “dimwitted” criminals flaunting their pistols on Facebook, reports the New York Daily News.

There is a group of detectives and police officers at the 73rd Precinct dedicated to scanning social media networks to collect clues regarding ongoing gang activity and threats of violence. The task force has been in place since the beginning of 2012, and has seen dramatic results.

“We have identified the bad guys and we are going after them,” said Deputy Inspector Joseph Gulotta, the precinct commander to the newspaper. “Social media has changed everything.”

The numbers speak for themselves. Police in Brownsville confiscated nearly 200 guns in 2012—a 30 percent increase compared to the year prior. Cops have already snatched up 25 guns this year, a more than double the count from the first six weeks of 2012.

“If you gather intelligence, you will get the guns off the street,” Gulotta said. “It’s about targeted enforcement. It’s about focusing on the guns and the crews.”

Gang violence in the east Brooklyn neighborhood is very noticeable on Facebook, as there are several groups using gang slang in their titles. For example, a group called Occfam is a reference to the Crips. Police sources revealed to the Daily News that pictures in the closed-group often show members throwing up gang signs at easily identifiable Brownsville intersections.

Other pictures in the group show handguns and large quantities of cash.

Brownsville residents told the NYDN that the neighborhood is more peaceful due to the police’s monitoring of Facebook. Even the New York Civil Liberties Union, usually a staunch opponent of the NYPD’s enforcement tactics, supports the initiative.

“Doing homework, where you go where the guns are is more effective,” said Donna Lieberman, the NYCLU’s executive director to the newspaper.

Photo by uberzombie/Flickr

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2013, 3:31 pm CST