Caught in the web... Facebook brings thieves to heel

By Derek Cheng

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

A baklava burglar, a tiki thief and a man who swiped a bottle of Gran's Remedy for smelly feet - these are the master criminals who will rue the day Facebook was invented.

Police say several criminals have been caught through information received after appeals on their page on the social networking site - including one shoplifter identified within 34 minutes of his image being uploaded.

The swift case of justice was revealed in the police annual report, tabled in Parliament last week.

"The fastest result was CCTV footage of a shoplifter in a chemist that was uploaded on to Facebook," the report said.

"It took only 34 minutes for the out-of-towner to be correctly identified from the page."

Among other cases of offenders caught using Facebook were a man who stole a $500 green tiki, and a man who stole Gran's Remedy, a powder for smelly feet.

The page also has videos of disorderly behaviour, such as a man urinating outside a kebab shop, and a man crawling on his hands and knees into a kebab shop to steal baklava, a sweet pastry.

Police have been using websites such as Facebook for almost two years to gather information on criminals.

Constable Sean Drader, an intelligence analyst in Queenstown, said Facebook was not only a good way for the police to connect to communities, but was also a potent crime-fighting tool.

The Queenstown police Facebook page was started successfully in December 2008, with footage of a man taking off his balaclava during a burglary, without realising he was next to a CCTV camera.

"Police need to recognise Facebook as an important investigative tool - we need to embrace it and use it more widely," Mr Drader told the police community newsletter.

Inspector Carey Griffiths, the acting national manager of the community policing group, said introduction of a national Facebook page was a possibility, but police were monitoring the district initiatives at this stage.

- NZ Herald

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