You may have heard that an 18-year-old Welshman had his friends film him as he stole a pair of glasses from a charity worker. He then (I can barely type this) posted the video to YouTube. (Presumably he expected to stay anonymous.) The police were thus able to identify and apprehend him. They let him off with a warningSo what?
On the surface, this story looks too obvious for commentary. Yes, the young man has (as somebody once put it) played a few too many games without a helmet. Yes, his friends aren't any too bright either. Yes, a warning seems inadequate to both the crime and the sheer gormlessness of its perpetrator. Leave all of that aside. The real point here is that a violent crime was recorded--albeit with the (utterly incomprehensible) consent of its perpetrator--by a civilian with a video camera. As camera phones increasingly become video camera phones, we're going to see many more instances of this type of citizen policing. We will, in fact, become a nation of tattle-tales, recording infractions great and small--everything from muggings to illegally parked cars to (ask Kate Moss) use of recreational drugs--and then sending the tapes to the police or, if they're particularly juicy, YouTube. Actually, YouTube is probably the way to go if your goal is blackmail and you can't identify your victim (maybe you caught him committing mime in public). Just threaten to put the video on YouTube--so many people visit that it's hard to stay anonymous for long...something that a certain Welshman now understands better than most.