After the NYPD had failed to catch the man behind a brutal mugging on Mar. 9, they released a video of the crime Tuesday in hopes of gaining leads. And within minutes, they surely did.
Gawker posted the video on its site on Tuesday night at 11:49 P.M. Within an hour, a commenter by the username " " wrote: "https://www.facebook.com/Stugotz27 link to most likely suspect. take care of business guys."
The link led to the Facebook page of 21-year-old Aidan Folan, who had photos of him taken hours before the robbery. According to Gawker, the photos revealed the same sweatshirt the mugger wore in the video — with large fraternity letters on front. Commenters on the New York's Daily Intelligencer site, which also posted the video, also linked back to Folan.
Folan has since been arrested and charged with robbery and assault.
So what can we take away from the NYPD's 3-week fail and the Internet's 1-hour win besides a good (yet sad) laugh?
Perhaps an awareness that social media is not just the place where people post silly statuses and pictures with friends. Social media acts as a timeline of people's lives — accounts of their activities. And now they are playing significant roles in helping to solve crimes — most notably exposing the Steubenville rape case back in January.
But while ordinary people can clearly solve crimes via social media too, don't think Big Brother has been late to the game. The FBI, CIA and police in cities across the nation have been investigating people's social network sites for years — often, however, raising privacy concerns for spying on citizens in the name of protection. In a recent article, for example, the L.A. County Sheriff's Departmenteven admitted to being the first known agency to monitor social media sites 24/7.