YouTube Proves Worth as Crime-Fighting Tool

Photo: YouTube Proves Worth as Crime-Fighting Tool: I Am Watching the People I Saw on YouTube Unloading a TV, Tipster Tells Cops

The videos capture scenes of furtive and not-so-furtive criminal activity: a house break-in in Florida; prowlers in Los Angeles, lurking outside Lindsay Lohan's door.

No, it's not a bold new reality series. The videos are part of a novel approach to crime fighting.

In the old days, property owners seeking to discourage trespassers had dogs. In Westerns they have rifles. But these days, there is a new weapon: the Internet.

Caught on Tape

In Atlanta, Dan and Alyssa Kopp are taking advantage of that weapon, fighting crime with YouTube.

"It's an emerging neighborhood, the problems are what they are," Alyssa Kopp said of the couple's locale. "Police cannot be everywhere, so rather than being reactive to a problem, we took a proactive approach."

The Kopps declined to say exactly how many cameras they have around their home.

"We have a number of them," Dan Kopp said.

"We're a little elusive about that," his wife added.

One video the Kopps shot, which now has more than 40,000 views on YouTube, shows a break-in at their Atlanta home one year ago, while they were at work.

"We were both at work and received a call from our alarm company that the alarm was going off ... there was no reason for it to be going off, so we told them to dispatch the police," Alyssa Kopp said. "When we got home, we found out that our house had been broken into, that our door had been kicked in and some items were missing, including a flat-screen TV, a laptop and a digital camera."

"It was just like fear and panic and, you know, the moment you hoped would never come and there it was right in front of you," Dan Kopp said.

As bad as the moment was, it was also a chance for filmmaking, because the Kopps had installed a video surveillance system and caught the whole thing on tape.

"We pulled up the video for the police," Alyssa Kopp said. "It was a rarity for them to have something like that at their disposal, you know, to help them, so they were pretty excited and they actually encouraged us to maybe get it out to local news, to see if we could get it publicized to try and get an I.D., a tip, anything."

Viral Videos on YouTube Used to Fight Crime

For police, video surveillance is like the holy grail of crime fighting.

"It's irrefutable evidence," Atlanta Police Department Maj. Renee Propes said. "First off, if you catch somebody on camera committing a crime, how can they tell you that they didn't do it?"

But video can be more than just a police tool.

"The second thing is that it just really gives citizens a way of sharing information amongst themselves," Propes said. "They have this video, they can put it out on YouTube or on their neighborhood talk groups, and if the perpetrator isn't identified, [it] can help us to hopefully identify that perpetrator by people in the neighborhood."

And that is why the Kopps posted their video on Facebook, YouTube -- anything they could think of.

"Yeah, we posted it on YouTube, not to like just, you know, send out to everybody so everyone could see it. It was to pass it around to the community to say, 'Look, these people in this car are driving around this neighborhood -- be on the lookout.'"

Around Atlanta, they were on the lookout. The police arrested the suspects from the Kopps' video after getting a tip from a caller who said, "I am watching the people I saw on YouTube unloading a TV at home." The case is currently in court.

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