Facebook Sleuthing 2.0: Recover Lost Items Online

Crime victims, police and good samaritans play digital detective.

ByABC News
April 13, 2009, 7:46 PM

April 14, 2009— -- When Mary Chapman learned that two of her husband's work trucks had been burgled, her first reaction wasn't to call the police. It was to sign on to Facebook.

She cracked open her laptop, logged on to the popular social networking site and sent off a quick message to a friend down the street.

"All I said was: 'You would not believe what just happened to my husband,'" the 36-year-old from Brunsick, Ga., told ABCNews.com. "Two of my husband's trucks were broken into."

A few minutes later, her friend forwarded that message to another friend in the neighborhood who, surprisingly, had noticed something strange in the middle of the day.

The women put two and two together and, within a matter of hours, they'd singled out the suspect, confronted him and amicably settled the entire affair. The police had yet to come up with a name.

"I really don't think at this point they would have figured out who committed this crime," Chapman said. "If it was not for Facebook we would not have our items or our vehicles repaired."

The suspect was an 18-year-old from the neighborhood who, she said, impulsively looted her husband's trucks after a disagreement with his mother. The Chapmans ultimately downgraded the charge after the teen apologized and agreed to make amends.

Chapman said the police were a great help, but she still credits Facebook for recovering about $1,000 worth of equipment (a radar detector, GPS device and XM radio) and other damages.

And she's not alone in her social networking sleuthing.

Recognizing Facebook's potential to quickly sift through and reach out to others, crime victims and good Samaritans from all over the world have started to use the site to play digital detective, often with great success.

Carla Pillo Mote a resourceful advertising executive in Philadelphia recently put her social networks to work to track down a man who drunkenly pilfered her laptop, taxes and wallet.

According to the media blog MediaBistro.com, Mote was having drinks with a friend in March, when a visibly intoxicated man sat down beside her. After the bartender refused to serve him any more drinks, he took off.