You probably know what Twitter is. Just in case, though, here’s a quick explanation: Twitter is an internet networking site that allows users to post thoughts and comments, known as “tweets”, provided those thoughts are less than 140 characters, including spaces.
With such a small space limit, what could Twitter possibly be good for? You can go to Twitter to find witty comments, links to other websites, quick news, and of course, to catch criminals.
You read that correctly. Recently, Twitter led to an arrest on the Boston’s metro system, the MBTA, more commonly known as the “T”.
Nay Kuhn was riding the red line train into Boston last week, when he noticed a man exposing and fondling himself, reports the Boston Herald. He wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t want to call 911, because he didn’t think he would be able to relay what he was seeing. And he didn’t want to confront the man in case he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Instead, he pulled out his cell phone and tweeted the following message: “#mbta pervert on 2nd car of red line going to Braintree just passed Charles help me report him in hat.” He also took a picture of the man, and added it to the tweet. He decided to allow the internet work its magic and trust that someone would report the tweet to the appropriate authorities.
And the crazy thing is that it worked. At first, all he got was a reply from another Twitter user, stating, “call the MBTA Police at (617) 222-1212.” But someone else must have reported the message to the transit system, because detectives met him in person later that week, and wanted posters of the perpetrator were put up in the T.
According to WBZTV, MBTA cops arrested Lawrence Maguire late Friday night in connection with the incident. He was criminally charged with gross and indecent exposure.
MBTA manager Richard Davey reportedly loves the idea of using Twitter to help catch criminals. Davey has announced that a system-wide Transit Police Twitter account is going to be launched soon. He recognizes the value of getting real-time information from passengers.
Many passengers now carry smartphones and other devices that would allow them to help report problems as they happen, making the job of the transit police that much easier.
In recent weeks, the system has used more photos taken on cellphones to make wanted posters, and has been using social media to catch criminals. Davey cautions, though, that social media is no replacement for calling 911.