If you don’t know by now, if you’re doing dirt, it’s best that you don’t post it online. Police across the nation are scouring social media sites for people boasting about the crimes they’ve committed. However, even if you haven’t committed a crime, certain social media posts can be interpreted as evidence of criminal activity. That was the case for one young man who did not commit any crimes, but got put into the city of Philadelphia’s gang database for posting Meek Mill lyrics online.
The program that Philly cops are using is called “Focused Deterrent.” The program is modeled after criminologist David Kennedy’s “Ceasefire” policing model which focus on small groups of people (or “gangs” as police refer to them as) that are suspected of violence in communities. Like similar programs throughout the country, Focused Deterrent relies internet surveillance. Cops rifle through social media posts looking for young people they believe have gang affiliations, compile the data and file it in the gang database. Young men are getting thrown into gang databases for actions as simple as throwing up a gang sign or bragging about crimes in music videos posted on Facebook or Youtube. Much of the time, it’s just youngbuls flexing online with little intent on doing anyone any harm or committing a crime.
Temple University law student Meredith Manchester has researched several Focused Deterrent cases in Philly over the past year. One of the cases involved the young man who tweeted out the Meek Mill lyrics. He was targeted because the lyrics involved some gun talk. The young man was being watched by police because he was involved in a lunchroom brawl at his high school, which resulted in a juvenile case for a riot. After seeing the lyrics, juvenile probation officers raided the kid’s house. Inside, they found a gun in a bedroom that belonged to someone else, where the kid was playing video games with a friend. The district attorney then hit the kid with two charges for illegally possessing a gun. The DA argued that the Meek Mill lyrics that he tweeted was proof that the gun they found was his even though it was in someone else’s room and there was no indication that he’d ever even touched the gun. The kid was held in custody for eight months (he could not be bailed out because he was still on probation for the brawl), but he was later released when a judge ruled that there was no legal basis for gun charges.
Read more about the Philadelphia Focused Deterrent program here.