There have been many instances of social media being used in criminal investigations, and a number of people are now in jail for Twitter posts or Facebook updates that weren’t suitable for public airing. But it appears criminal stupidity has reached a new low (or should that be ‘new high’?) in Brooklyn.
Officer Michael Rodrigues was desperate for evidence on a gang suspected of carrying out regular burglaries in the Crown Heights area. His idea? Send Facebook friend requests to the suspects. A number of them accepted, giving Officer Rodrigues the ability to monitor their walls and posts.
Fourteen members of the gang – known as the Brower Boys – ranging from 15 to 19-years-old have been charged with a series of crimes that span over 12 months.
Having been allegedly carrying out crimes uninhibited for a year, it was a Facebook status that undid the whole operation. Officer Rodrigues noticed on March 2nd that one member posted the status “It’s break-in day on the avenue”, so police officers were dispatched to trail the man, and they arrested him as he broke into an apartment.
NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that one of the other gang members warned the perpetrator against bragging online about criminal activities, saying “you all just gave yourself away”.
So there you have it. For the overwhelming majority of us who live within the law, there is still a message to take from this story: accepting friend requests from people you don’t know can lead to problems.
Obviously in this case you could say that justice has been served. But there must also have been situations whereby innocent people have accepted friend requests from fictitious users who turn out to be identity thieves or other miscreants. Just be careful who you decide to give access to your personal information.