THE CHI-TOWN LOW DOWN: Social media watchdogs tweet, photograph truth of Chicago crime

By Natalie Craig

I was first introduced to the Instagram account @SPOTNEWSonIG last summer when a friend told me he saw some shocking pictures on Instagram from crime scenes across Chicago. He opened the account and handed me his iPhone. I saw a bloodied body lying lifelessly on the ground near a gas station. Police surrounded the body, some crouched down for a closer look while a photographer snapped pictures of shell casings scattered around the scene. A second photo on the account revealed the victim’s bloody face, which was almost unrecognizable.

Before I could say anything, I was shocked at what I was seeing and even more shocked to read the comments below the photo where people claimed the dead man was their relative and others begged the poster to remove the image from the account.

Another thing I noticed about the photos was that whoever took the photo appeared to be inside of the yellow crime scene tape. I wondered who this person was, and I still do. Was it a journalist, a police officer, a first responder or just someone at the scene? Was this person violating some kind of ethics code? The questions boggled me for the longest time as I con- tinued to follow the photographer on Instagram and Twitter. That is when I learned there was more than one person behind showing and telling about what happens at Chicago crime scenes.

With the hashtags #CrimeisDown, #S–tCPDSays and #ChicagoScanner, @SPOTNEWSonIG works with other Twitter users such as @Chicago_Scanner to keep the social media world informed of crimes as soon as they occur. They even live tweet information and police calls from radio scanners that have access to the Chicago Police Department’s radio dispatch and communication.

Having these social media accounts in place gives Chicagoans and other social media users across the country a glimpse of what is really happening in Chicago.

Although the images of crime scenes on Instagram are uncensored and often show dead bodies, blood and the emotions of those surrounding the crime scene, they offer an unparalleled view of the reality of gang and gun violence and Chicago’s rising crime rates. Living downtown and even in other parts of the city that are not as affected by poverty and violent crime, it is easy to disregard the growing issues that South Side and West Side residents face every day.

Although I first thought the posting of crime scenes and dead bodies was unethical and disrespectful to the victim’s family, it makes these situations more real to those who consume other forms of news, which are often times censored to shield the public from the gruesome reality that is Chicago’s rising crime and homicide rates.