Crowdsourcing Approach Leads to Arrest of Bombing Suspect
Friday’s arrest of the Boston marathon bombing suspect was the result of a successful investigation in which law enforcement relied on crowdsourced intelligence gathering. On April 19, officials arrested 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after he and his accomplish shot one MIT police officer dead and left an MBTA Transit Police officer wounded. Tsarnaev’s elder brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died early Friday morning after a gunfight with police.
Immediately after Monday’s blasts, hundreds of spectators provided police and security personnel with thousands of photos and videos taken from their smartphones. The multimedia collage led to a comprehensive view of the crime scene from every conceivable angle. Thousands of images were posted online on Facebook and Twitter minutes after the attack that killed three and injured more than 150 people took place.
The Boston investigation was led by FBI special agent in charge Richard DesLauriers who used the principles of crowdsourcing to rapidly find clues. Due to the fast turnaround in the collection of evidence, the Tsarnaev brothers were tracked within three days of the crime.
Some experts say the investigative approach to the Boston marathon bombings involved an innovative approach that could be repeated in future major incidents. Beginning on Monday, authorities urged the general public to provide images and videos of the terrorist attack.
Given the decentralized nature of the crowdsourced effort, citizens were given the contact information of local police, Homeland Security, and the FBI. Special agents used crowdsourcing technology to sift through the mass amounts of data pouring in from official channels, the media, phone apps, and social networking sites. A software called Crowd Optic determined the most popular images around the time of the bombing. Smart metadata embedded in cellphone images helped to pinpoint the exact geo-locations of thousands of snapshots. The clues helped investigators to identify critical leads near ground zero.Continued on the next page