Twitter is great for a lot of things: making jokes, commenting on award shows, complaining about reality TV, and apparently solving crimes. Last night an anonymous Twitter user single-handedly identified two suspects in a violent Philadelphia hate crime only hours after the attack occurred. He used only social media tools, crowd sourcing, and publicly available information to ascertain the suspects identities before contacting the police to report his findings. This is just the latest case in which vigilant social media users have helped to crack crimes in record time.
According to statement released by the Philadelphia Police Department “On September 11, 2014, at 10:45 pm, the complainant, a 28-year-old male, along with a friend, a 27-year-old male, were on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street when they were approached by a group of unknown white males and females. As the group approached the complainants, they made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation.” The group then allegedly assaulted the two men punching and kicking them repeatedly before robbing them. Both men were injured, one required surgery to repair multiple fractures and lacerations. The suspects fled when approached by police and remained unidentified.
On September 18th the Philadelphia police posted video footage from the crime scene to their YouTube channel asking the public for help in identifying the suspects. Shortly thereafter, a Twitter user named Greg Bennett tweeted the video to his followers, one of whom replied with a Facebook photo of a party containing individuals who resembled the suspects. Bennet tweeted out the photo asking for help identifying the subjects or the locations.
Philly hate crime: pic.twitter.com/i3PBprO9nn
— Greg Bennett (@GreggyBennett) September 17, 2014
Another Twitter user, going only by the name @FanSince09 retweeted the picture and immediately received dozens of responses identifying the restaurant where the photo was taken. Most agreed that the restaurant was La Viola a trendy eatery near the site of the attack. @FanSince09 compared this information to Facebook check-ins at the restaurant on the night of the attack and used tagged photos to identify several of the suspects.
If you’re going to gay bash don’t fill your FB profile with gay slurs and also delete that resturant check in from earlier — FanSince09 (@FanSince09) September 17, 2014
The user, who has refused to be identified, forwarded his findings to the Philadelphia Police Department who praised his work but made it clear that no arrests would be made until the information was verified through the proper channels.
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.
— Joseph Murray (@PPDJoeMurray) September 17, 2014
After taking a quick Twitter victory lap, the user, who remains unidentified, brought the focus back to the issue at hand, tweeting: “Listen. We showed tonight that our city will not tolerate this. My hope is that another city realizes they won’t tolerate it” He has politely declined any publicity from the incident, jokingly referring all interview requests to Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Guard Evan Mathis. A social media hero, unsung by choice.