Chicago is known nationally for their high amount of violent crime. While it fails to make the list for the nation’s most violent cities, in 2017 alone the Chicago Tribune reports that the city has seen over 3,000 shootings and in 2016, the number of violent crimes committed with firearms rose higher than it had been in the last two decades. With such grim statistics in mind, the men and women in blue who patrol these dangerous streets every night have been looking for new ways to curb crime rates and have been steadily embracing technology in order to achieve that goal.
After police received a tip that illegal drugs and guns were being sold and traded through several secret Facebook groups, Chicago Police turned their attention to the internet in hopes of curbing Chicago’s grim track record. Beginning their investigation in February of 2017, law enforcement were able to infiltrate at least a dozen of these secret groups.
Through their undercover investigation, police say they were able to arrange the sale of 18 firearms, many with the serial numbers scratched off, as well as $45,000 worth of illegal drugs. As a result of this investigation, 50 people, including a teacher for Chicago Public Schools, have been arrested and warrants have been issued for an additional 18 people.
According to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the agency reached out to Facebook for assistance in their operation but he says their response was not what the agency had hoped for. “Facebook has a responsibility to the people they serve to ensure these type of things don’t happen, quite frankly they have not been very friendly to law enforcement to prevent these things,” Johnson told Chicago’s ABC affiliate.
A Facebook spokesman wrote to the same ABC affiliate, “We are investigating this report now as it is the first time we have been alerted to it. We do not allow the sale of guns or drugs on our platform. We routinely work with law enforcement.” Police say they will be having a meeting with Facebook executives in order to discuss cooperating in future investigations of this nature and collaborating in order to stop illegal activity on Facebook’s servers.
In a statement from the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, he applauded the department’s use of technological innovations in helping to clean up Chicago’s streets. He says, “These innovative raids are the latest example of the smart, strategic steps the men and women of the Chicago Police Department are taking to combat gun violence. Whether criminals are operating online or on the street, we will always ensure CPD has the tools, technology, training and talent to track them down. I commend the leadership and rank and file of CPD for their proactive, professional policing that has taken more than 8,600 illegal guns off our streets this year and helped drive a reduction in crime in communities throughout the city.”