The New York Criminal Law Blog

Are Online Rap Videos Being Used as Evidence?

Alert the neighborhood: Online rap videos are being used by NYPD as evidence of gang activity.

In an effort to cut down on stop-and-frisk tactics, the NYPD is using content from rap videos made by young people associated with gang violence in order to reduce crime, reports The New York Times.

Although using online rap videos as evidence for long-term investigations by the NYPD is something new, rap videos and other YouTube videos have already been used catch criminals.

Rap Game Foiled

One example of an online rap video being used as evidence of a crime involves a high schooler with a college football scholarship. Jay Harris's football scholarship was rescinded after he posted a rap video where he's smoking weed and cursing up a storm on YouTube. The video evidence didn't get Harris arrested, but a clip of him getting stoned was enough for the football hopeful to lose his scholarship.

Even if you're just an extra in the rap video, you could be arrested if there's evidence of you committing a crime. A Florida man fleeing the scene of his crime ran straight into the filming of a rap video and decided to ham it up for the lenses. The video was released to police and within days, the criminal was identified and arrested.

Besides rap videos, crimes broadcasted in other types of YouTube videos can put perpetrators on the fast track to arrest.

YouTube Can Lead to Arrests

It's safe to say that showing any evidence of criminal activity in your YouTube video will get you in trouble. When "planking" was popular, a notorious planker posed on top of several bits of police property and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

With billions of videos on YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook, it's easy to feel anonymous when you post your footage. While the First Amendment may protect your speech from being censored by the government, it certainly won't protect you from the consequences of your words and actions.

What you say and do in online videos can and will be used as evidence against you. For the NYPD, using online rap videos is one of the many ways officers can collect evidence to investigate and eventually thwart gang violence.

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