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Innovation

NYC wants a YouTube: 911

Tapping into the power of masses of people carrying location-identified digital cameras and vidcams, NYC's expanded 911 suggests why Web 2.0 is really a good thing after all.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on
Call it 911 2.0. Well, maybe that's a little awkward but the idea is right. New York City wants to change its 911 system so that citizens can upload digital photos and video, mostly from cellphones, Newsday reports.
"If you see a crime in progress or a dangerous building condition, you'll be able to transmit images to 911 or online to nyc.gov," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his State of the City address. Bloomberg, who introduced the city to the 311 information hotline during his tenure, called the project "a revolutionary innovation. "

In other words, 911 is getting him to the power of the masses, tapping into the vast data collection potential of millions of cellphone-camera wielding commuters, tourists and shoppers.

In just one of many cell phone justice stories, two Catholic schoolgirls surprised a subway flasher by snapping his mug with their camera phone in 2005. They provided the photos to police, who tracked down and arrested the man.

The proposal actually mimics a program already started by Indiana to revamp its 911 networks.

"Information is the bedrock of good law enforcement," said John A. Feinblatt, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator. "The more information that the police have and the more quickly that they get it, the more likely that they are going to fight a crime. "

Technically, the enhanced 911 is very do-able, Feinbatt said.

"It's basically technology that exists that matches words with pictures," he said, citing the popularity of cell phone text-messaging and video-sharing sites such as YouTube. "It could be done through a Web site or it could be done through text-messaging. "
New York City has already begun using video to fight crime. The police department has begun a $9.1-million project to install 500 cameras in 200 locations.
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