From ‘SNL’ to Philly? City considers asking youth to help fight crime via social media

The goal is to use young people to do what they do all the time: Surf the web and review social media posts to identify potential crimes before they happen.

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Cell phone with variety of social media apps on the screen

Mayor Parker is considering having young people assist with fighting crime through social media. (PixieMe/BigStock)

Saturday Night Live guest host Syndey Sweeney joined cast member Chloe Fineman portraying two teenage girls who used social media to quickly solve cases that stumped police in a skit that aired on NBC this weekend.

The “youngsters’” ability to quickly navigate what’s available online to track people down mirrors the real world, where it seems like young people can instinctively move through social media with ease.

While Mayor Parker’s staff said they were unaware of the skit, the city is considering a similar idea of using young people to help reduce Philly’s violence.

It was one of the ideas city leaders discussed at a Tuesday roundtable meeting.

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Felicia Pendleton of the NOMO Foundation was one of several community leaders who participated in the discussions with the mayor, police commissioner, and council president.

She suggested employing young people to tip police off to potential crime before it happens.

“Hire some young people that can give information on the internet beefs,” she said. “Hire some young people that can tell you when the next meetup is going to be. I’m telling you because they know, because I find out quickly.”

Pendleton said she has repeatedly seen people’s lives taken, and the situation is becoming worse, to the point that some young people she knew retreated to the safety of their own homes after a fellow student was killed in a shooting Monday.

Mayor Cherelle Parker said she liked the concept.

“I’m 51. We didn’t have social media to contend with when I grew up, but knowing now that it has been a part of the nucleus of much of the senseless gun violence that we’ve experienced in our city, how smart will it be to ensure that young people who know social media better than some of us could ever know could be advising and doing working with us in some capacity,” she said.

In New York City, the POST Act is designed to oversee monitoring and surveillance, including talk on social media, after some called monitoring social media posts intrusive.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Parker said if the department implements the idea, it would not be made public.

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