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Police post pictures of looters online as London cleans up

Pictures of looters in the London riots have been posted online as communities rally round to pick up the pieces.

Pictures of looters in the London riots have been posted online as communities rally round to pick up the pieces. A fourth night of violence is possible but undaunted locals have begun cleaning up, with Twitter and other social media -- blamed by some for making violence worse -- helping to spread a message of hope and recovery.

Police have begun posting pictures of looters and rioters to flickr.com/photos/metropolitanpolice. The shots are pulled from CCTV footage, starting with images from incidents of looting in Croydon and Norwood. The Met has set up Operation Withern to respond to the riots, and officers are combing through "thousands of hours" of CCTV ready to release "many, many images of people we will be speaking to in connection with the scenes of violence".

Pictures of looters are also being collected by the Catch a Looter blog. If you recognise any of the people in either set of pictures, or know of someone involved in the riots, contact the Major Investigation Team on 020 8345 4142. Or you can report crime and provide information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Web has also been invaluable for keeping track of what's going on. Channel 4 News used an interactive map showing the spread of violence. Birminghamriots2011.tumblr.com provides live updates of events in the Midlands city, including a clever use of Tumblr's instant question-and-answer facility so people can find out what the situation is near them.

James Cridland, managing director of Media UK, created this Google Map and verified each report. His blog about the map is a timely reminder to think before tweeting, so as not to spread misinformation or rumour.

On a more positive note, Londoners have been rallying round to clean up their communities. The #riotcleanup hashtag on Twitter quickly led to a website letting riot-Wombles know where to go to help out with picking up the pieces -- and just as importantly, providing a counterpoint to the night's scenes with concerned Londoners gathering in solidarity. "Almost a crush to clean up. Enthusiasm an understatement," tweeted organiser @Riotcleanup.

Messages of hope decrying the violence have also spread on BBM, Twitter and Facebook. Despite this, David Lammy MP has called for BlackBerry Messenger to be turned off.

Our sister site ZDNet UK has posted a blog detailing how the police could obtain and analyse BBM traffic data to track looters. "RIM would be required to hand over message data to the police, allowing them to use traffic analysis to show the spread of messages and between which BlackBerry PINs," writes contributor Simon Bisson.

"There'd be no need for RIM to unencrypt data -- the traffic patterns would be all the police needed to track down message sources and the devices associated with those messages."

Image credit: Lawcol888 on yfrog