Oct 22, 2021 - News

For some witnesses, sharing crimes on social media comes first

Illustration of phone with siren emoji.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

As the man Atlanta police say shot and killed a woman and fired at officers early Wednesday, some witnesses’ first instinct wasn’t to call 911.

Instead, they took out their phones and filmed the incident for social media before calling police, leading the department to publicly call on anyone who recorded what happened to share what they have with investigators.

Why it matters: University of Miami criminologist and sociology professor Alexis Piquero told Axios that instead of dialing 911 to inform police of a crime, many people are documenting events as they unfold, and immediately sharing them with the rest of the world.

Piquero said the trend is growing so much that in Miami, for example, police departments have hired people who just monitor social media for crimes because “people aren’t calling them.”

  • “We did start receiving phone calls, but social media received information and has received more information, quite frankly, than we have received through our 911 center,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Wednesday’s shooting during a news conference.

Flashback: Atlanta police were dispatched to a call of a shooting around 3:14am at Atlantic House Midtown at 1163 West Peachtree St.

  • A man, later identified as 32-year-old Jarvis Jarrette of Milledgeville, was allegedly shooting from the balcony of an apartment on the 21st floor, APD said. At least one officer returned fire and Jarrette was later pronounced dead.
  • Police found a woman dead inside the apartment. Her name has not been released, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the police shooting.

Context: Bystanders filming crimes without calling 911 was in the news again this week in Philadelphia when witnesses took out their phones and pointed them in the direction of a man raping a woman while on a train.

  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said the attack could have been stopped sooner if witnesses called police instead of filming the incident, according to CNN.com.
  • NBC News reports the attack wasn’t reported until a SEPTA employee saw the incident.

What they’re saying: Dean Dabney, professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, said it can be initially difficult for cops if they must solely rely on social media posts for crime activity rather than getting direct information.

  • In the long run, those posts do benefit police because once found, videos posted on social media “play well in front of the jury” because it’s live action.

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