Monthly Archives: June 2014

Who done it? Citizen investigators mine social media for crime clues

DIY sleuths can help police catch crooks, but also cause potential problems with misidentification and obstruction

by Virginia Pelley

In a video posted last month on Facebook, a kitten — short-haired and gray with white feet — approaches a young African-American man dressed in red. The man coaxes the cat closer, pets it briefly and then kicks the animal into the air, to the delight of friends behind him, one of whom recorded the cruel attack on his phone. The kicker turns to the camera and laughs.

Within hours, the video had elicited dozens of outraged comments, and interspersed among them were posts dissecting the footage for clues to the kicker’s location and identity. One woman called the construction company seen on nearby scaffolding to ask if it could help pinpoint the location. Elis Pacheco, a 47-year-old marketing manager in Brooklyn, enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, a video editor, to blow it up so they could take a closer look.

Once it was magnified, a “Fulton Street” sign in the background was crystal clear, Pacheco said. Virtually cruising through the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood on Google Maps, Pacheco and his brother-in-law then found the set of buildings in the background and determined the address where the attack took place. Pacheco then posted screen shots of the cat kicker’s grinning face on Facebook with the caption “Hi! My name is SCUMBAG. … My address is [redacted] but no one seems to know my name. … Can you help?”

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