Social Media Sleuths Help Track Down Hate Crime Suspects

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Social media sleuthing may be a questionable tactic (remember Reddit and the Boston bombers?), but crowdsourcing successfully helped an investigation this week.

According to Philadelphia police, several Twitter users helped track down a dozen suspects who allegedly attacked two gay men in the street last week on the night of Sept. 11.

Investigators told the local ABC News station the victims were approached by a group that "made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation" before punching the two men in the face, head, and chest. The two victims were taken to the hospital.

After authorities released a surveillance video and Twitter users scoured the web for the identities of the attackers. One user, using the handle @Fansince09, tweeted the video to thousands of followers. The user found a photo of the group at a restaurant, prompting his followers to check Facebook for people who checked in there, matching pictures to the video. Another user, @GreggyBennett, tweeted photos from the restaurant and the video.

Storify has a collection of the case's progress through Twitter:

The tweets led police to the restaurant. No arrests have been made, but Philadelphia Police Detective Joseph Murray tweeted his thanks to the users for helping further the investigation and pursue the suspects.

The Wire reached out to Murray for more on how he felt about the investigation's interaction with social media. Murray told us the following:

I started my Twitter account with this very goal. Get people to trust me and see me as a friend so that they feel comfortable with giving tips. I enjoy being someone people can come to with their problems and concerns.

I think this is the perfect example of how powerful a police/public relationship can be. I mean, we can do a lot when we work together and this really proves it."

"I am just really pumped up about the outpouring of support and numerous tips," he concluded, "not only as a detective, but as a Philadelphian."

The victims have also heard of the effort on Twitter and expressed their gratitude through a friend.

"The boys are just really happy that there is clear footage," the victims' friend Caryn Kunkle told ABC. "And they just keep repeating that they want justice done, not just for them, but so that it never happens again in Philadelphia."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.