Juvenile Justice

NYC cops keep tabs on potential teen robbers with frequent interaction and fake Facebook profiles

New York City police are trying to dissuade potential teen robbers with a novel approach that involves early intervention and monitoring of social media.

The program targets juveniles arrested for robbery in East Harlem and the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the New York Times reports. Police figure out each teen’s street name and gang affiliation, and then keep tabs on the youths partly by monitoring their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Officers typically create a fake Facebook page of, say, an attractive teen girl and then send friend requests to the juveniles they want to monitor.

Police also visit the teens’ homes and schools and shout greetings in front of friends. Partly the idea is to make the teens “radioactive,” isolating them from crime-committing peers, the Times says. Officers also lend a hand to the teens’ families, helping them with applications for housing, food stamps and child support, for example, or by providing gifts or a holiday turkey. Police may link a teen with a day care center so she can return to school, or they may suggest study help for a teen preparing for a GED test.

Joanne Jaffe, the police department’s Housing Bureau chief, created the program in 2007, tracking 106 teens in Brownsville linked to robbery arrests. Since then, only 14 of the teens have been arrested for a new robbery. The department expanded the program to East Harlem in 2009.

“We tell these teens, ‘You have a choice,’ ” Jaffe told the Times. “You will not victimize anyone else. If you commit a new robbery or any other crime that is going to hurt people, we are going to do anything we can when you get arrested to put you in jail. Your friends will get out. You are not getting out.”

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