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Bay Area Police Rely On Crowdsourcing To Help Fight Crime

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A Craigslist ad for a stolen bike. (CBS)

A Craigslist ad for a stolen bike. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Some Bay Area crime victims are now taking to the internet to stop crime, and police have said they are turning out to be great partners.

For cycling enthusiast Joe Carpenter, a red flag went up when he saw a $10,000 bike offered at a bargain on Craigslist in San Jose.

“When you see a bike like that for the price that it was, you know that something is really fishy, for sure,” recalled Carpenter.

Members of the Bay Area bike community started trying to crack the case. A search on StolenBikeRegistry.com located a likely victim, also in San Jose. The number associated with the posting was also listed on a suspicious Craigslist ad for a pair of $1,000 jeans.

That info was enough for San Jose police officers, who set up a buyback sting at a gas station.

Officers noticed one of the suspects tossing away what looked like a weapon. They moved in and arrested the suspects. They found the $1,000 pair of jeans, and a gun that turned out to be stolen from Turlock. Carlos Sentellano and Rochelle Vasquez were charged with possession of stolen property.

SJPD said they could not have done it without help.

“She had some valuable information that she was able to impart. So in a sense, she did some of the work for us,” said Albert Morales of SJPD.

This type of online sleuthing is happening more often. Last week a Santa Cruz teacher found her own stolen car. In Morgan Hill, amateur detectives found a stolen Delorean using Google Satellite images.

“I might be an expert at Facebook. You might be an expert at Twitter. The cops are experts on their databases and the tools they have. But collectively, we are working together as one,” saod Carpenter.

The trend, which some are calling crowdsourced crime fighting, does come with limits. Police say suspects should not be confronted. Officers ask that anyone attempting to help solve crimes simply act as a good witness, collect as much information as possible and alert police.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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