Deep within each college student beats the heart of a crime fighter.
This statement may seem absurd, but not to the folks with the CU-Boulder police. Department personnel recently nabbed Javier Silva-Acosta on fraud-related charges just three hours after sharing information about him on social media. Moreover, Acosta's arrest is the UCPD's third of the school year in which Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube played a key role in the bust. Photos, videos and details below.
CU-Boulder Police spokesman Ryan Huff, who chatted with us yesterday about the 4/20 non-event on campus this past weekend, tells the story.
On April 16, according to Huff, a student reported nearly $500 of unauthorized charges to her credit card, which had been in a wallet that disappeared from an engineering-center computer lab a few days earlier. (Another student had reported a calculator theft from the same lab around that time.) Then, around 9:30 p.m. that same day, an employee at the on-campus Center for Community's Weather Tech Café informed cops that someone had used her credit card to make a purchase at the eatery half an hour earlier. She later learned her purse had been lifted from her locker at the café .
Fortunately, Huff says, "the detectives investigating this had surveillance video and some screen grabs from that video. So we posted the videos to YouTube and to our Facebook page, along with some screen grabs."
Here's one of the videos shared on the UCPD page:
What happened next? Huff notes that "within three hours of that post," which went live on April 18, "we had several tips that came in to detectives that were all telling us the same person, Javier Silva-Acosta, was the person in the video. We even had people report that they were in the Center for Community dining hall and saw him there right then."
That's all officers needed to hear. They immediately headed over to the café, button-holed Silva-Acosta, a 23-year-old CU sophomore, and put him under arrest without incident. He's suspected on two criminal possession of a financial device counts, three unauthorized use of a financial transaction device charges, two theft under $500 beefs and a second-degree criminal trespassing allegation -- all misdemeanors.
Huff was impressed by the speed at which everything took place. "It was even quicker than the last two times," he says.
What were the previous incidents?
Continue for more about social-media aided arrests, including photos and videos. "The first case was in the fall," Huff says. "Someone had entered a student's residence hall, stole a printer and ran off with it."
This didn't exactly qualify as the perfect crime. As Huff points out, "we have cameras in the residence halls at all the entrances and exits for security purposes. So we gathered the video, posted it on our Facebook page and Twitter site" -- it also went out via the CU-Boulder Today electronic newsletter -- "and asked for help."
Here's the video:
"It didn't take long" for progress, Huff notes. The person in question -- Jacob Jarman, an eighteen-year-old student -- soon turned himself in. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree criminal trespassing, a felony, plus a minor in possession of alcohol offense.
And case number three? "There was a person of interest in a number of thefts that happened in academic buildings," Huff says. "He pawned an iPad at a Lakewood pawn shop; we knew this because the serial number on the missing iPad matched the one he took down there."
The man had given his name, Raymond Hamilton, at the pawn shop, Huff goes on, "and he was a suspect in other thefts at the Colorado School of Mines and the Anschutz Medical Campus. So we worked with those agencies and posted his photo on social media."
Here's that pic:
This time, the break took a few days. The photo was posted on the UCPD Facebook page on November 12, and then again on November 20 -- the second time because he'd been arrested the previous day by personnel with the state's parole service, "because he was a parolee," Huff points out.
Why does Huff think social media has worked so well when it comes to catching campus scofflaws? "We have a unique audience, a very Internet- and social-media-savvy audience. The number of our followers keeps growing -- about 1,400 on Twitter and 850 on Facebook -- and we will look to continue growing those numbers through good content and engaging the public with information they need."
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The bottom line, from Huff's perspective: "When we have the community's help, we can make arrests much more quickly and more efficiently."
Just ask Javier Silva-Acosta, whose full-size mug shot is below.
More from our Tech archive: "Photo: Alexander Heit's final text message -- which he was sending when he crashed and died."