We've just witnessed a potentially disturbing marriage of basic street crime and the instant worldwide audience provided by video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace.
Criminals have often recorded their exploits for fun, but the ease of online sharing means that almost everyone can now witness assorted muggings, fights, and robberies from the safety of a laptop screen. At the same time, crimes posted to the Web get instant attention from law enforcement and the press, essentially acting as online wanted posters for the perpetrators. A perfect example is a recent subway attack video first discovered on YouTube on November 7, and since covered by the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Court TV's The Smoking Gun Web site, and other media outlets.
The video, allegedly shot by a New York film student named Kadejra Holmes, shows a group of teenage girls riding New York's A train, arguing with, and eventually attacking, a male passenger. After the incident, Kadejra posted the video on YouTube, naming the clip, "Jump Up to Get Beat Down," after an old Brand Nubians track called "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down."
Holmes was soon contacted by The Smoking Gun, and after she denied being part of the group, claiming to be just an innocent bystander with a video camera, she deleted the video from YouTube and took down her MySpace page. But, nothing that's been posted online is ever really gone, and popular blogs such as Gawker as well as the Web sites of New York's daily newspapers have all reposted the video and written about the attack.
In Thursday's New York Post, Holmes' parents claim, "... their daughter did not know the teens involved in the assault and had just captured the incident on camera as she innocently rode the train," but they also admit that she had been arrested back in September for taking part in a separate subway attack.
Police are reportedly trying to identify both the attackers and the victim from the video.