Violation: a crime and an exercise in the power of social media

Earlier this week, friends had their home burgled and items stolen. They are modern people and had their home wired up with video cameras a few weeks ago. I was there the day that installation was happening, and remember one of the teenagers being upset that her activities would now be viewed by other people. At the time, i tried to explain to her that the benefits of having the cameras would be large compared to the occasional discomfort that would be felt about being filmed. As it turned out, her room was entered by the thief during his raid on the home. Good for her, she had decided to sleep somewhere else.

The day of the robbery, I went to visit the friends on my way from school drop off and a meeting. I had tried to call the husband of the couple, but got a message that his phone was turned off. That was odd, so late in the morning. I was stunned to find the house full of people, and more confused when I noted it was close family. That suggested a tragedy. I heard about the robbery. One family member told me to go upstairs and find my friend. He was watching the video of the burglary with his close relatives. It was bizarre that this had happened a few hours ago. It was bizarre that the thief had been so comfortable in his crime, and spent about three hours in their home. Everyone was peering at the screen, watching the action and movements and trying to recognize the face.

The police had already visited and would be coming again. I tried to be hopeful, even though JCF do not have a good record in clearing up crimes.

My friends have decided to make use of social media in their effort to find the criminal. They have posted the video on Facebook and Twitter, and I and other friends and acquaintances have shared that video. It’s a kind of crowdsourcing in the name of fighting crime. I hope it works out and helps find the culprit quickly.

IMG_0747This is a screenshot from the video.

Social media is a powerful new tool that we have. Many people don’t like it. I overheard someone saying a few days ago “I don’t like Facebook!” The person to whom they were speaking asked why? The first person went on to describe what she had heard about people doing ‘bad things’ on Facebook, meaning posting pictures and videos of themselves or others doing things that most of us would not wish to share with others. Her counterpart added that there’s no obligation to share anything on Facebook, and also that what was shared and with whom was a matter of personal choice. The doubtful person seemed to be a little more at ease.

I’ve become a regular user of social media. One thing I discovered early when I started using Twitter was the old maxim that ‘two heads are better than one’. The community of ideas and opinions often leads to a much better understanding of a topic. It’s also the case that the universe of knowledge and opinions is so large that the chance that someone else can offer an insight into any person’s views is very high. Now, not everyone engages with a sense of collaboration, and some people are not comfortable being challenged, especially in a public space. The defence mechanism kicks in and sometimes the exchanges become tense.

Lots of problems exist because written words alone don’t have the benefit of tone and nuance. Some of us try to insert that by using visual markers that suggest something less than a harsh tone, such as a smiling face or a face with a wink.

I learned also from early days on Twitter than the ‘trolls’–those who seek to be offensive and abusive–are an evil lurking in the wings. They tend to come forth anytime that someone seems to be making positive remarks, which is often. They’re like any annoying biting insect. But, I also learned that some people are clear in their purpose and can move past the negatives with seeming ease.

I remember taking a long break from interacting on Facebook and Twitter during a period when I was tired of seeing trolls at work, even though I was not their target. It just left a sour taste in my mouth. I did read and look at what people posed, but sought not to offer anything. It allowed me to figure out what it was I enjoyed about social media. The sharing is about caring, in my book. Those who don’t like sharing are really in the wrong space, and some come to that realization through a harsh experience. It’s not for everyone, and if you are thin-skinned, it really is worth thinking twice about engaging.

What is also fascinating about social media is the way it brings out the ‘six degrees of separation’. It’s always nice to find some person with common interests who’s connected to a person you know, but did not know that you had mutual friends. I keep smiling when a chance acquaintance in Barbados became a friend and after a series of connections on Facebook revealed that she was a cousin of one of my longest-standing friends.

Real connections like that are always refreshening. It keeps alive that very human aspect of wanting to be bonded.

Already, several people who’ve seen the video have come back with video images of their own showing a person who seems to be the same criminal. That suggests that the net may close quickly. But, it also points out that the villain had not been apprehended for previous crimes.

I hope my friends get the help needed to catch their intruder, who violated their home and stole their treasured privacy.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)