The “siege” on the US Capitol building by rioters last January 6 was one of the most disturbing and alarming scenes in recent political history. The mob just overwhelmed officers on the premises and violated the House and Senate floors, as well as congressional members’ offices. Democracy turned into mobocracy, which should never be tolerated by the law of the land. Definitely they should be arrested and prosecuted, for whatever reason drove them to riot. The coordinated law enforcement response is leaving no stone unturned.
Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible to identify and track down the guilty. Large amounts of data are being accessed by law enforcement agencies on the Capitol mob. These include using security cameras, facial recognition technology, GPS from cell phones and other devices, and any evidence on social media to identify the perpetrators of the crimes.
It goes without saying that certain watchdog groups have raised concerns using surveillance technology to identify individuals who may commit a crime, however, there is much less concern about using the technology to identify and arrest individuals who have already committed the crime. The guilty must be caught.
Using facial recognition technology
Facial recognition technology actually started in the 1960s, where computers were used to recognize human faces. Basically, the system is capable of matching a human face from a digital image or video frame against a database of faces. Since the riot of the US Capitol building, lots of information has been gathered by law enforcement, particularly images taken from security cameras, cell phones – to identify the “criminals” or persons of interest. The law enforcement people are also turning to private companies who have large databases of identified faces. It is evident that there is a tremendous amount of data some private companies have been collecting through the years, from social media and other public sources, as well as CCTV monitors in public places all over the world. The authorities can simply purchase the services of these companies. It is clear that this technology can identify criminals and extremist groups, particularly when a violent encounter in public is done.
Social media information
Ironically, authorities are using a lot of the posts of the rioters on their participation. Whether these individuals did not realize their photos could be used against them or not, it definitely helps the authorities locate the guilty. Aside from these posts, innocent bystanders have documented the event as well. Needless to say, social media companies are completely cooperating with law enforcement. Data that is useful in identifying and tracking the perpetrators is being shared with the law enforcement team.
Some of those earlier arrested were previously known to law enforcement agencies. Certain groups and radicals have been under surveillance for security reasons. Their involvement was confirmed by social media posts. The FBI’s terrorist watchlist, which includes suspected white supremacists, were contacted (or warned) not to attend the “Stop The Steal” rally in Washington. Seems it fell on deaf ears. However, authorities are also determining the extent of the participation of individuals, whether it was for reasons other than causing mayhem. Some have planned to participate in such an event for their political beliefs, others just wanted to protest the election results, and still others were just curious or wanted to join the bandwagon.
It is important to note that law enforcement authorities themselves disagree among each other about the pros and cons of restricting extremists the ability to communicate on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. One point is that restricting these extremists’ communication on these platforms may prevent another such incident or attack. Still, certain groups are using password-protected sites to protect their identities.
On the other hand, making these extremists less visible on online platforms makes it difficult for law enforcement to gather information needed to identify and apprehend individuals participating in criminal behavior.
Know that identifying an individual, particularly someone not previously known to law enforcement, is just one of the pieces of evidence needed to issue an arrest warrant. Information of the person of interest’s location in the crime scene is all the court needs to issue a warrant.
Tracking locations of the perpetrators
Mobile devices such as cell phones can be tracked and most of the rioters at the Capitol building had their cell phones on. This allows authorities to determine and track the movements of the cell phone owner. Law enforcement has the technology to determine the location of the device at a specified time, even if users have cellular data and Wi-Fi disabled. However, location data is only useful when assisted by other evidence of the subject’s involvement in a crime, like photos or videos. Location data is not precise enough to distinguish where in the area the individual was…it could be the person was outside the barricades, or inside Nancy Pelosi’s office. And there are too many devices in the area which can obscure signals. So, it is a mix of different types of data which help the authorities identify, track down, and arrest the criminals.
With all this technology available, it is not a difficult task for law enforcement to punish the guilty. And yet, one reliable source of information that has not changed with modern times, is information tips from the public. Since the January 6 storming of the Capitol, many tips have come across law enforcement desks from relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the like, who indicated they saw somebody they knew on the photos and videos aired on TV or social media. Or heard people boast about their “triumph” at the Capitol. There are still lots of people out there with a conscience and duty to help law enforcement address these crimes committed.
The FBI in particular, took advantage of the constant media attention of the siege, and the tips from concerned citizens. They immediately established a hotline within hours of the incident, to gather as much information as they could. Also, it surely helps law enforcement when the guilty are willing to be recorded and filmed. Some even boastfully said their names and place of residence, surely they regretted it after the shock of their arrests tapered down.
Sometimes technology works wonders that are much appreciated. Without these tools like facial recognition, GPS tracking, and social media platforms, criminals may get away with their crimes, particularly in riots and mob events. Of course, the good, old-reliable tips from the public will always be appreciated. While every citizen maintains the right to privacy, large-scale violent incidents surely must be avoided. If a crime is committed, the guilty should not go unpunished.
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