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Here’s how police and the public can use social media to solve a crime in a few hours

Twitter users teamed up last night to catch suspects in a homophobic attack in Philadelphia

Image: Philadelphia Police via Youtube

A CONCERNED TWITTER user in the US city of Philadelphia took just a few hours and some social media detective work last night to identify a number of people wanted in connection with a recent violent homophobic attack in the city.

The city’s police force have thanked him and others for their tag-team efforts, and arrests are forthcoming.

Here’s how it all went down

Last Thursday night, 11 September, a group of 15 “clean-cut and well-dressed” men and women set upon a gay couple at the intersection of 16th and Chancellor St in the heart of central Philadelphia.

One witness said the group screamed homophobic slurs like “F**king f***ots” at them, and the violent assault was classed as a hate crime.

A friend of the victim posted about the brutal attack on Facebook:

10600583_10201571190281906_4192951680520836743_n Source: Caryn Kunkle via Facebook

Yesterday at around 3.40 pm local time, Philadelphia police released a surveillance video of the group involved, appealing to the public for their help in identifying them:

Source: PhiladelphiaPolice/YouTube

A few hours later, at 7.36 pm, Twitter user Greg Bennett posted a link to the video on his Twitter account:

In response, a friend of Greg’s sent him a Facebook photo of the same “clean-cut, well-dressed crew”, which Greg posted to Twitter:

restaurant Source: Greg Bennett via Twitter

Enter someone going by the name of FanSince09, who shared the restaurant photo, and asked his followers if they knew where it was. They did.

Turns out the gang of suspects had dinner last Thursday at Viola West, an upscale Italian restaurant, 100 yards from the site of the homophobic attack.

FanSince09 then used Facebook graph search to see who had “checked in” to the restaurant that night, found the photo above, and matched names to the faces.

He didn’t publish those names, but rather handed them over to detectives.

This is in contrast to previous “crowdsourced crime-solving” cases, where internet users have shared the names and personal details (including home addresses) of suspects, who sometimes turn out to be completely innocent.

By 9.30 pm or so, a grateful Philadelphia police department had the list of suspects they were looking for, as local detective Joe Murray pointed out:

Facing the inevitable, some of the group of suspects turned themselves in to police in the city last night, and the still-anonymous FanSince09 has become something of an overnight folk hero, despite his modesty:

Although the detective did issue a note of caution, and managed to sandwich in an excellent pop culture reference…

…which is a trait that apparently goes right to the top in the city’s police force:

6bc0c70a08138c0bee95215cad8f83ac359cc5bd06b332b10e09479691e2b2c8

Read: Woman finally finds owner of wedding photo found at Ground Zero, 13 years on>

Poll: Have you ever got in trouble for a post on social media?

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