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With stop and frisk curtailed, one NYPD unit turns to social media

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Once a useful tool used 60,000 times a year, stop-and-frisks became vilified once being used 700,000 times a year under the Bloomberg administration. 2013 is shaping up to look like the year stop-and-frisk is curtailed.

In the month following a judge’s ruling the practice as unconstitutional, shootings in the city are up and gun seizures are down down. A predictable outcome, the NYPD will now have to develop or utilize other tools to keep crime at the record lows that have been set.

Enter Operation Crew Cut. About a year ago, an enterprising police officer in Brooklyn caught word that a crew was about to set off and burglarize a series of apartments. His confidential informant? Facebook. The deeds all caught on tape the take-down reverberated at police headquarters and was one of the driving forces to building the unit, now 300 strong. The unit targets crews, also called sets, that are different from gangs.

Rarely an initiation like Bloods or Crips, but geographically developed partnerships in crime. Often their main focus seems to be low level mischief – a cooperative for disputes that arise over reputation or turf. Like others their age the crews are heavily bonded by social media. In response, the NYPD Operation Crew Cut Unit spends time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites to embed themselves with crew members – often having to pose as girls to do so. In addition to getting officers around privacy settings, the NYPD can often predict payback plots before they are actually carried out.

On Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters so-called ‘crews’ were identified as being responsible for nearly one-third of the city’s shootings a year ago. The Crew Cut Unit has reduced crew-related shootings by about 25% since last year.