I’m no fan of Facebook, mainly for personal reasons related to privacy, but several stories this week have pointed out the creative ways individuals and agencies are using the platform to fight crime.
The first case involves a man who created a fake Facebook profile on which he published a video he’d captured of his bike being stolen. After a few weeks of comments by Facebookers (and over 400 “Likes”), the alleged bike thief was caught on camera returning the bike to its rightful owner under the cover of darkness (videos at the link).
After the bike was returned, the owner posted the below comment to Facebook:
We woke up this morning to discover that the stolen bike had been returned. Not sure who or why, but your guess is as good as mine.
Having video footage of his alleged criminal behavior shared on social media might have had something to do with it. At any rate, chalk one up for an amateur Facebook sleuth.
The second case comes from Washington State, where a woman went undercover on Facebook to trick her ex into confessing to torching her car (video at the link). She, too, created a fake profile she then used to question her ex-husband, who was apparently oblivious to whom he was actually talking, until he reportedly admitted to the arson.
That, and cell phone data showing his location on the night of the crime, convinced the police to make the arrest.
Another case involved use of Facebook to capture vandals who damaged a restaurant.
It’s not only civilians, but more and more local police departments around the world are getting in on the act, too, by creating profiles to interact with the public, get tips about local offenses, and otherwise share information.
The Florence, Kentucky police department is using Facebook to post closed-circuit videos of some crimes, such as shoplifting, and claim they’ve solved at least 8 cases by this method.
Still other departments are wading into social media looking for bad behavior before it occurs, including perusing adverts on Facebook for parties involving underage drinking, drug use, and violence. Police then show up to shut things down before they get out of hand.
For better or worse, social media is forcing its way more fully into the mainstream everyday. Facebook appears to be empowering some people to respond proactively to their own victimization, while also giving the police new ways of detecting and combating crime.
If you’ve had any experiences along these lines, share your story below!
Have a safe weekend.
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