All Eyes

Designing for safety often relies on “eyes on the street“. After recent moves from Vancouver to Whitehorse to Toronto, I have been considering how living in a much bigger city affects my safety.

Rioters and vandals in Vancouver's Stanley Cup riots earlier this month have since found themselves tagged and identified using social media. Thanks to Dustan Sept on Flickr for this evocative Creative Commons photo.

The assumption that urban anonymity leads to more crime is likely true. It makes sense that safety in smaller places is due to tighter networks and the increased likelihood of being caught or ostracized due to actions.

Fortunately, the digital shrinking of the world is mimicking the surveillance of a small town. Paired with the volume of video footage and photos, social media acts as eyes on the street, identifying criminals remotely.

One of my favourite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, identified this trend:

2. Thieves will have to change tactics as people will leverage social media to track down and punish thieves…But the trend will become so big that people will have to resort to new tactics of thievery to avoid the public embarrassment of social media.

For example, this individual recovered his stolen computer with hidden software and the power of the internet.

“Thanks to the power of the Internet, I have the attention of the Oakland Police, who are tracking this guy down RIGHT NOW!”

More recently, social media had a positive pressure following the Vancouver riots. Rather than rioters damaging the city in anonymity, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook were used by the police, citizens, and media to identify rioters. The Van City Riot Criminals blog used the tag line is:

Anonymous crime in a Web 2.0 world? I don’t think so!

I love that through the internet, I effectively live in a small town in which everyone knows each other. Since morals don’t always guide behavior, I rest assured that accountability prevails.

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