People who snap pictures and videos of law breakers on their mobile phones are being encouraged to send the information into the police.
Dave Jones, chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, says the growing influence of technology and “citizen journalists” is helping his officers to prosecute those who flout the law.
But the comments raised concerns among members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Ryedale Area Committee, one of whom likened it to how the KGB, the Soviet Union’s secret service, operated during the Cold War.
Chief Constable Jones, speaking at Hovingham Village Hall, pointed to examples of the force being sent videos of motorcyclists and motorists caught speeding or using their mobiles phones while driving.
The police also recently used mobile phone footage to pursue a conviction following an alleged assault in Malton’s Market Place.
“Citizen journalism is a term used in policing and media,” said Chief Constable Jones. “Every citizen now is potentially a journalist. When we are at a major incident we get inundated with video and pictures. It is instantaneous – BBC, Sky News, all the mainstream media have set up a resources that can use videos from handheld devices.”
He added: “The only caveat is we use the whole information. We have to interview the other driver, for example. It is no different to someone picking up the phone and ringing us.”
But Norton Town Cllr David Lloyd-Williams said: “Citizen journalism scares me a little bit. It reminds me of what the KGB did in the Eastern Bloc where there would be one person who constantly reported back to the authorities.”
There was also a “word of caution” for the police from County Cllr Clare Wood who feared people taking videos could be at risk of intimidation if they caught someone breaking the law. There were also fears that it could lead to retribution from residents in smaller communities.