Social Media and Crime: Knowing isn’t solving

THE VISUAL power of Social Media – posting photos and videos on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – all in real time has truly given us that sense of having full bodied information clearly, accurately and in the most timely manner. And the real impact is felt nowhere but in crime reportage.

Indeed, the proliferation of smartphones and cheap closed circuit television (CCTV) systems has provided tons of content to whet our crime watching appetite. Time was when we would just hear rumors of this politician’s nephew mauling a jeepney driver, that tough guy on the road berating a traffic enforcer or even a rogue enforcer arrogantly shaking down a motorist. Nowadays, it’s most likely uploaded on the internet and, if you’re lucky, a follow up video or news report of action taken against the thug also makes the rounds.

But for the most part a lot of the crime reported on Social Media just disappears into that black hole in cyberspace. The questions on whether they were officially reported and acted upon, investigated or even solved remains. Just look at all those photos posted of policemen riding motorcycles without plates and helmets.

just a sample of those many photos motorists are so familiar with

just a sample of those many photos motorists are so familiar with

Last June the video of a TV report of a toughie who tried to maul a gasoline boy while showing off that he was armed also made the rounds. The cops were called in, the guy’s vehicle clearly identified, bit what then?

gas station

The armed toughie on ABS-CBN News video. Click on the image to view.

Recently a news report from Cagayan de Oro of that notorious Martilyo Gang striking again. This is the gang that uses hammers, wrenches or whatever steel tools to break the glass counters encasing jewelry displays. Their modus operandi is to create a diversion with gunshots in and around the mall, mess around with mall guards then hit the glass counters and grab the jewelry.

GMA's news report on the latest martilyo Gang robbery. Click on image to go to the YouTube video

GMA’s news report on the latest martilyo Gang robbery. Click on image to go to the YouTube video

To avoid early detection, they purchase the metal tools in the hardware store of the mall itself. And in the commotion they freely blend into the panicking crowd when they make their getaway.

This latest report is the fifth of its kind: first in 2010, two in 2013 and two this year. The difference this time is that instead of hitting the department store’s jewelry section they decided to break into a pawn shop tenant of the mall.

The nagging question: is this one crime group – that notorious Martilyo Gang that police are quick to brand? And what of the three previous Metro Manila robberies? Were they ever even solved?

Did the gang change from hitting the pawn shop instead of the mall’s department store because they knew that the management replaced all their jewelry counters with shatter proof glass? Did the gang members all move to Cagayan de Oro?

Like we said, four years of this news going into a black hole in cyberspace.

And what about those dangerous holdups and shootouts in other malls? What have happened to them?

Take that really nasty one in Alabang Town Center in 2012. That involved a nasty shootout right at the entrance of that mall and grenade throwing which, thankfully, did not explode.

GMA News report on the Alabang Town Center robbery and shootout. Click on the image to see the YouTube Video

GMA News report on the Alabang Town Center robbery and shootout. Click on the image to see the YouTube Video

Police later in the day attributed it to the Ozamis group. Then later some news about the Police head of the detatchment just around the corner being sanctioned because they did not react amid all the melee. Again, the black hole.

Of course, there’s that high end jewelry holdup in Ayala’s Greenbelt 5 in Makati at about the same period. That was bold and done in mall hours.

And it isn’t just holdups. There’s the scary cases of child abductions and kidnapping, like the one posted by one Honey Santiago in her Facebook page about an unaccompanied kid attempting to get her child to go with her in Alabang Town Center:

I stared at the girl while she was holding our son’s hand and inviting him to come and play. I interrupted and asked, “Where are you going?” So she just pointed to the direction where the exit is (if you are familiar where Sugarhouse ATC is located, it is pretty much near one of the mall’s exit where commuters have easy ride access and is also near a barangay of squatters).

So I spoke to the girl in English telling her to play where I can see them, asked her questions about her parents or nanny, etc but she just stared at me blankly repeating to my son, “Come, let’s play” while tugging him to join her. It then dawned on me that this girl probably doesn’t understand English and suspicious thoughts started racing in my head so I translated my instructions and my questions turned into interrogations in Tagalog but this time with a stern and authoritative voice since her expressions, answers seems scripted and uncommon for a child. I also looked around and the girl with her age seems to be unsupervised within reasonable distance.

I asked both of them to sit in front of us so I could observe further instead of just going away, my head wrestled with my instinct refusing to believe that a child can be used as an accessory to a hideous crime such as kidnapping. The child sat but was uneasy and can’t keep still. She was just staring at our son not saying a word or anything. I can’t remember if my son tried to talk to her since I was too engrossed in observing the girl and putting pieces of the events that unfolded together.
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Any police follow ups? Or is this just another one that just blends into the vast digital realm of the internet, along with the many others that remain uninvestigated and unresolved?

Or perhaps mixed with laughing babies and funny cat antics?

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