Italian police are now armed with a new, high-tech weapon against crime: the video phone.
They are catching citizens committing illegal acts and nailing them in real time.
Not any crimes, though, just buying fake goods.
Stroll through any town in the Bel Paese and you’re likely to come across vendors, often immigrants, hawking fake Gucci bags and CDs from white sheets laid out on the sidewalk.
In Verona, home to the Romeo and Juliet legend, police are now aiming cameras at the street vendors and nailing the customers and sellers when they seal the deal.
It does seem a bit of a cop-out (pardon the pun): why not bust the illegal factories, or arrest the vendors — instead of just occasionally chasing them off the streets, which is what happens most of the time — if this is such a serious crime?
And why film it, anyway, instead of just arresting? What happens to those clips?
Apparently the long arm of the law is more effective, more real to people these days, if it busts us thanks to visual evidence — something the Italian authorities have already experimented with for traffic violations.
One of the first perpetrators to get fined by using this film-and-tell technique was a foreign tourist buying a bogus €15 designer bag.
The fine? More or less enough to pop for the real thing: €200 (circa $260).
Although it’s common enough to see Italian police yakking on cell phones while on the job, the city especially outfitted them with video phones to reduce the illegal commerce.
Forget handcuffs, billy clubs, mace: watch out for the phones.