Digital door-to-door
October 30th, 2005

This article in the IHT looks at how police used text messaging in their pursuit of soccer fans who rioted in Rotterdam last April.”There was no way to foresee,however,the unique wireless wrinkle used in the pursuit by prosecutors determined to round up as many of the offenders as possible.After the initial phase of the investigation left many of more than 200 suspects on the loose,the Dutch authorities turned to a kind of cellular door-to-door search,mass text messaging in search of criminal information.The cellular-era tactic has appeared in a growing number of cities since early last year,as the police seek to turn cellphones into direct lines to potential witnesses.”We were really determined to arrest everybody involved,” said Jeichien Degraaff,spokeswoman for the Rotterdam public prosecutor’s office.So “prosecutors decided to try using SMS for the first time in search of more witnesses.Investigators sent the SMS to 17,000 cellular subscribers,telling recipients that their phones were known to have been near the riot and to call the police with any information.The numbers were obtained from regional mobile carriers,whose records showed which phones were present in the riot area.Since the message was sent out in July,Degraaff said,arrests in the case have surpassed 130,with 100 suspects having begun court proceedings.Degraaff said her office believed the SMS effort played a role in leading to the additional arrests.The agency has dubbed the tactic “digital door-to-door,” a reference to the door-to-door search for witness information police officers typically conduct in the area of a crime”.

Wireless:Cracking down on crime in a cellular era

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