When Facebook, Twitter And CCTV Solve Crimes

Last Thursday, a brutal gay bashing took place in the City of Brotherly Love:

Sources tell NBC10 the 27-year-old and 28-year-old victims were walking from a restaurant in the area of 16th and Chancellor around 10:45 p.m. Thursday. Suddenly they were approached by a visibly intoxicated group of two men and six women. Witnesses say someone in the group asked, “Is this your fucking boyfriend?” When one of the victims told them yes, the group allegedly attacked them, punching and kicking them in the face, head and chest.

Both men suffered shattered cheekbones and one had to have his jaw wired shut. But a combination of CCTV and social media – especially by a lone and heroic tweeter – caught the fuckers who did it:

The Philadelphia police department on Tuesday released surveillance video of the large group of suspected attackers as they walked along the Philadelphia street where the attack occurred. Within hours, the above photograph [shown in the lower-right corner of that tweet by Greg Bennett] surfaced on Twitter that purports to show many of the suspects at a dinner party taken that evening at a nearby restaurant. …

According to reports, a Twitter user named @FanSince09 turned to Facebook Graph Search to see who had checked into La Viola after it was determined that the photo first surfaced on Facebook. After matching the photo from people who called into the restaurant, he notified police.  It wasn’t long after that Philadelphia police detective Joe Murray credited @FanSince09 with helping to crack the case with this tweet: “S/O to @FanSince09 This is what makes my job easy. Sure, it’s up to me to make the arrest but we are all in this together.”

Late Tuesday evening, WPVI-TV reported that attorneys representing the suspects have contacted police and are marking arrangements to turn themselves in for questioning on Wednesday.

It reminds me a bit of our Window View contest. It’s amazing what you can do with Google earth, let alone with CCTV and Facebook clues. It’s also a sign of the power of social media to replace conventional sources. In the old days, a newspaper would have had to do all the legwork – probably not as swiftly – and have far fewer resources to do it. Now, independent, social media sleuthing can make all the difference. In a pretty demoralizing and depressing time, this cheered me up no end.