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LAPD uses Facebook, Twitter, videos to find Lakers violence suspects

June 21, 2010 |  5:59 pm

Los Angeles authorities plan to use hundreds of images taken from police videos, business surveillance cameras, TV news footage, Twitter posts and Facebook pages to identify people who committed crimes after the L.A. Lakers NBA championship win last week.

Local police have already arrested 46 people but expect that number to grow. Officials warn it could take months to identify and arrest the suspects.

The Los Angeles Fire Department's arson unit on Friday released onto YouTube video of people smashing and setting fire to a taxi cab -- asking the public for help identifying those responsible for the damage. As of Monday, that video had gotten almost 200,000 views, and officials said they’ve gotten several solid tips.

LAPD officials said they believe it's worth the effort to track down the assailants -- even if it takes weeks or months.

“In the age of phone cameras and digital video devices, it has in essence deputized the public in fighting camera,” said Lt. Paul Vernon. “It has added to the maxim that police are the public and the public are the police.” 

After unrest following the 2009 Laker’s celebration, police decided to pursue several long-term investigations. Several videos captured a mob swarming a Shell station at Grand Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, shouting, “Free soda, free soda” and grabbing merchandise that included water, chips, candy, six-packs of soda and energy drinks. Detectives spent months working to identify alleged looters and making arrests.

Last Thursday, some people roamed the streets of downtown Los Angeles, breaking windows, thrown objects at police, vandalizing public and private property and setting a taxi cab on fire.

While the crowd scattered when police arrived, detectives now have images of many of these incidents and believe they can make more arrests if they can identify those in the videos and photos. 

--Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: L.A. Times file