Posted at 11:55 AM ET, 08/09/2011

London riots: How will British police identify suspects?


A masked man walks past a burning car outside a Carhartt store in Hackney on Aug. 8, 2011 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid - GETTY IMAGES)
As riots in London rage on, 525 suspected participants in the chaos have been arrested, according to Scotland Yard. At the moment, 99 people have been charged, mostly with burglary.

While the videos and pictures coming from the scene are shocking for a number of reasons, some rioters’ disregard for concealing their faces seems particularly surprising. One very brazen alleged looter posted a picture of himself with stolen goods on Facebook.

The riots broke out over the weekend, sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan in the Tottenham neighborhood. Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a vacation in Tuscany, called Tuesday for an end to the violence and looting, the Post’s Anthony Faiola reported.

Scotland Yard’s Operation Withern has posted images of suspected rioters online and on Flickr asking anyone with knowledge of their identities to contact the police. “The IT Crowd’s” Graham Linehan has joined this call, asking people to pass images of rioters to the authorities. More images will be released by police as they become available.

Tumblr Photoshoplooter publicizes photos of the lotting — with a twist. Submitters are encouraged to place odd objects — like Spongebob Squarepants and a giant teddy bear — into pictures of the riots.
Apparently, some of the looters were after Justin Bieber tickets. ( Photoshoplooter )

“Those who have or intend to go out and commit violent, criminal acts should be warned. We will have photographs and evidence that we will use to identify you and bring you to justice,” Police Commander Simon Foy said in a statement.

But how effective will this campaign be? For that, we look to the recent riot in Vancouver, which broke out after a Stanley Cup game.

A Tumblr, Facebook page and Flickr account were set up to post and identify suspected rioters. The Vancouver police expressed concern that these measures would lead to “vigilante justice,” according the the department’s Web site.They asked instead for citizens to submit video and photographs to the police, who are currently identifying suspects using the footage.

“The investigative team is in place and comprised of 50 police officer and civilian experts from around the region. There are many challenges in this investigation, not the least of which is the sheer amount of evidence and information that must be painstakingly analyzed to ensure a complete and thorough investigation,” the department wrote in a statement. “The team is still fine-tuning the infrastructure that is dealing with the unprecedented volume of data.”

I’d say. The department has received 4,300 email tips, 1,500 hours of video and 15,000 images from the riot. At the moment, 37 people have turned themselves in and 111 others are being investigated, according to the department. In each of the 202 reported incidents from the riot, between one person and 300 were involved.

So what does this mean for London? Bringing the rioters, looters and fire-setters to justice is possible, but it may take a while.

By  |  11:55 AM ET, 08/09/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company