YouTube videos featuring arrests of young women spark concern in New Jersey

A YouTube page dedicated to posting arrest videos — almost all of them featuring young women accused of drunk driving or shoplifting — is sparking concern among officials in New Jersey.

The unidentified person behind the channel Drive Thru Tours first began sharing content in early 2020. As the name suggests, the initial videos are driving tours through cities like Newark, Princeton and Jersey City.

For years, the clips went mostly unwatched and the channel remained relatively obscure. That was until February of last after, when the page began uploading lengthy clips of bodycam footage from police departments across New Jersey and beyond.

As of Saturday afternoon, more than 250 videos have been shared with the channel’s 87,000 subscribers. The clips, in total, have been viewed upwards of 35 million times.

Some of the most popular videos feature women fighting with officers at the Jersey Shore or crying while getting arrested for DUI. Many of the videos drive clicks with headlines including phrases such as “name-dropping rich girl,” “future homicide suspect,” and “pregnant woman busted.”

Law enforcement leaders in the Garden State told NJ Advance Media they’ve lately been fielding a lot of anonymous requests through the state’s Open Public Records Act. While the statute is aimed at transparency by allowing citizens access to government records, police now worry its instead being used to exploit women under arrest.

“It was never the intent of OPRA to create such a platform that preys on young women and takes advantage of them at a time when they are vulnerable,” said Montville Police Chief Andrew Caggiano, one of three New Jersey chiefs who told NJ Advance Media they recently received records requests specifically seeking videos of young women being arrested.

“The law that protects a news media organization reporting on a corrupt politician who has been charged with crimes is the same law that allows this guy to exploit young women who have been arrested for drunk driving,” added Kelly McBride, vice president at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

In response, New Jersey’s Association of Chiefs of Police have called on lawmakers to act against such “online sexual predators.” While a bill has been presented to the state legislature seeking to prohibit the disclosure of bodycam footage “without the prior written consent of each subject” — unless doing so is “for a legitimate public health or safety purpose” — there’s no current law banning the posting of clips like the ones now on YouTube.

The creator of Drive Thru Tours, who declined to provide their name, told NJ Advance Media that the page was meant to be “educational.”

“My goal is to illustrate the real-life consequences of driving under the influence and discourage others from driving while they are impaired,” the anonymous owner said, adding that they “think these videos can serve a ‘safety purpose’ or ‘legitimate public interest’ by preventing accidents and even saving lives.”

But other disagree, instead calling it “exploitation” and “voyeurism.”

“It’s clearly meant to humiliate and embarrass, and there doesn’t seem to be any public good that comes from this,” said McBride.

When asked whether videos are taken down in exchange for money, the Drive Thru Tours creator did not respond.