Police Beat Crowd-Sourced by Bay Area Civilians

This week saw a very peculiar unfolding of a real-life crime drama in the San Francisco Bay Area. Two days ago (Tuesday), 27-year-old taxi driver Muthanna Aldebashi was apprehended and taken to the Alameda County Jail by Oakland police; he is suspected of “possessing stolen goods.”

The drama saw its start in March. Then, Joshua Kaufman, the interaction designer pictured first from left in a March 2011 photo, filed a police report following the theft of his MacBook from his Oakland apartment. Kaufman informed the police that his MacBook had an app — Hidden (basic plans runs at a $15 annual fee) — installed that rendered his MacBook’s movements traceable and had even managed to take photographs of the alleged thief while he used the stolen computer.

When Kaufman presented the incriminating information to the police, they did not pursue his leads; Kaufman stated on his blog that the police cited “lack of resources” for the position they took on the matter. Undeterred in his quest to get back his computer, Kaufman then went to the public by creating a Tumblr blog (http://thisguyhasmymacbook.tumblr.com/) and leaving postings on Twitter.

His web campaign worked. The media got wind of the story and, after slightly overwhelming the Oakland Police Department with requests for comments, the police took another look at Kaufman’s case. In a testament to the power of crowds, the police, pressured to follow Kaufman’s leads, carried out a successful investigation and handed back the missing computer to the designer on June 1.

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