Why walk the streets when you can sit back at Starbucks, open your laptop, and listen to them?
Why pay snitches when you have some of the finest snitches of all in Facebook and Twitter? Not the companies themselves, you understand. Just the people on their sites.
That seems to be the spirit of a new unit created by the New York Police Department.
Conscious of the realities of virtual communication, the department has, so the New York Daily News tells me, decided bad deeds can be anticipated or corralled on Twitter and Facebook. So it has set up a social media unit to establish juvenile justice for all.
Just think, the theory goes, what the police might discover on Facebook and Twitter. A couple of ne'er-do-wells are planning a little stand-off in Queens? They're going to boast about it on Facebook. A naughty gang of thuggish hoodlums is going to ambush a sworn enemy in the Lower East Side? Perhaps they'll tweet their intention.
You might think this entirely wishful, but who could forget the recent example of a man who allegedly posted a Facebook message to the police: "Catch me if you can. I'm in Brooklyn."
If the police hadn't been avid Facebookers, they might have lost the chance to book Ruben J. Burgos. But they were and they did.
Bad people like to brag. Sometimes they even brag about being bad. Who could blame the police for deciding that it has to follow and friend in order to win in the end?
So, youths south of Yonkers. So, gangs of New York. Your news feed is being observed. Your status updates are being sniffed.
Will you barricade yourselves behind privacy settings? Or will you take on the new online cops on your own turf? Yes, your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, or even that chat room where you go to talk about, you know, your problems with girls.