As reported in a Dixon Patch story last month, in response to his bike being swiped from his front porch, one Dixon resident took crime fighting into his own hands.
He created the Dixon Bike Thief Facebook page, posting home surveillance video of the incident, headlining it: "Hey, Dixon residents, I am a bike thief. Actually, I'm just a thief. I'll steal anything. So, you better lock your doors and hide your valuables, because I prowl your streets at night. There is a $100 reward for identifying me."
Now, 34 days later, the same surveillance system caught, what appears to be the same male, bringing the bike back to where it was taken.
People may never know if it was the guilt of stealing that weighed the bandit's choice to return the property, or the pressure of a 400-fan Facebook page that blasted his face into the community – but this leads to the question: Is social media a beneficial, neighborhood watch style, tool in catching criminals?
Patch caught up with the page manager, and victim of the theft, to better understand his witty use of social media.
Patch: What was your experience like over the past month?
"It was very interesting using Facebook to let people know about this crime, it has been a VERY powerful tool, but in some ways, a little bit scary.
I also did a fair amount of leg-work handing
out flyers, knocking on doors, talking to people, and dealing with the
police. When I was handing out flyers, I was surprised how many people
already knew about the Facebook page.
For the most part, everybody has been very helpful and supportive, but not every interaction was positive - there are always people with a different perspective.
I don't think we will ever know what prompted the thief to
actually return the bike, unless he tells us. Any speculation would
just be a wild guess."
Patch: Was there backlash or negativity toward the site from the public?
The victim explained that there were two distinct negative reactions that followers had toward the Facebook page, and managing comments became necessary. He explained he eventually created guidelines for appropriate commenting.
people who think that theft is an acceptable fact of life would say – you should
lock up your valuables or expect to get them stolen.
Second, people that added a racial component to the discussion that didn't really have any place.
While I may have strongly disagreed with some of these viewpoints, I did not want to ignite an online debate that would have distracted people from the objective of the page. I found it best to just delete their posts and ban them from the page."
Patch: Did you experience any backlash from the site?
"There wasn't really any other backlash. I really
didn't expect for the thief to return the bike, but I wondered if he might vandalized my property out of frustration or
embarrassment. That hasn't happened. It has prompted me to beef up
our security system."
Patch: What will you do with the site now? Would you do it again?
"I will probably leave the Facebook page alive for the foreseeable future.
I would be happy to give people tips on how to setup their own page or even how to setup their own security system, but I'm not sure that this page is the right forum for that.
be happy to link to other similar pages, and to let
people post their own stories as long as things don't get out of hand."
As for the bike, the victim reports it came home with some wear-and-tear. He says he plans to take it to Fisk's Cyclery, where it was originally purchased, for a tune-up, and will then donate it to a charitable organization.
Would you consider using social media to fight a crime you became a victim of?