Social networking Web sites help solve crimes


by Erica Heartquist

Bio | Email | Follow: @EricaHeartquist

Posted on January 20, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 21 at 8:04 AM

ALBANY, Ore. -- In the age of Craigslist, Ebay, YouTube and Facebook, police say social networking sites are helping them catch criminals more and more often.

Pretty much everything is done online these days. For area detectives, fighting crime is no exception.

Three times in five months, a thief shattered the windows and doors of Richard and Rene Kesecker's "Good Earth Pest Company" in Albany. Their expensive tools were stolen each time.

"The biggest shock was when we first saw it on Craigslist. It was just like, That's my saw!" said Richard Kesecker.

They saw their stolen stuff up for sale and called detectives who went to the listed house, pretending to be interested buyers.

"We returned later and talked to the suspect and said, 'Look - we saw that what you sold us is stolen and we need to know a little bit more about where you got it,'" said lead detective Randy Voight with the Linn County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives eventually arrested Albany resident Daniel Gill, 59, who lives less than a half mile from the Kesecker's business.

"He stole items from at least four people," said Voight. And not just tools, but several firearms.

"The big question would be, why?" said Rene Kesecker.

KGW went to Gill's house to ask him about the allegations. No one came to the door.

"It's becoming rare that a crime doesn't involve technology in some way," said Linn County Sheriff's Office computer crime detective Micah Smith.

Smith's job didn't even exist ten years ago.

"Many bad guys are stealing things and posting them on social networking sites," he said. "Detectives need to be well-trained on how to navigate the Internet sites."

In Corvallis, Facebook helped lead to the arrest of Fernando Antonio Gonzalez, 22, who stands accused of raping a woman at a party in May 2009.

Court documents said that online photos posted to Facebook from the party ultimately helped detectives locate Gonzalez.

"The victim was able to go online and find some photos that were taken at the party where she was raped and provide those to the detective as a form of identification of the suspect," said Corvallis Police Lieutenant Dave Henslee.

So while many use social networking sites to connect to friends, detectives see the sites and the Internet overall, as a constantly improving, valuable tool for crime-solving.

"It has changed our job. Absolutely. Absolutely," said Det. Voight.

Officials with the Linn County Sheriff's Office said nearly all of their property crimes are solved due to some form of evidence found on social networking Web sites.