There are a lot of electronic resources out there these days to help people find their stolen belongings, but Internet investigating and social media sleuthing have their own dangers. Police have some advice to ensure that do-it-yourself detectives don't end up being victimized twice.
The I-Team tagged along last month when Michael Cao made arrangements with a young woman to buy back his own, stolen cell phone, after he found it for sale online. Although he called the police, they didn't arrive in time to witness the exchange, but the I-Team cameras did. The woman selling the stolen phone didn't stick around to answer questions.
Tips from viewers and social media quickly helped identify the suspects who were eventually arrested.
"In this case, I think, you know, technology was able to help track down this person," Cao said.
While Cao's case worked out well, not all do-it-yourself-detective work has a happy ending.
"It's not a good idea to investigate your own crime when you have contact with a suspect," said Detective Aaron Lee, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Lee understands that there are a number of online resources for do-it-yourself detectives to find their stolen goods, but he says citizens should generally stick to looking for their items on Internet classified services, rather than confronting a suspect.
"I've had victims go out and try to recover their stolen property and ended up losing more property than they started with," said Lee. "They ended up getting robbed at the scene when they went to encounter the suspect who had their stolen property."
A recent call to Metro Police from a citizen who'd been burglarized illustrates why it's important to have police or professional security confront the suspect.
911 caller: "Yesterday, I was burglarized and I found the person that burglarized my house. Excalibur security has him in custody. He's wearing my shoes and my hat."
In this case, Excalibur hotel security grabbed the suspect who thought he was meeting a buyer for the stolen goods at the hotel. Security found a .357 Magnum revolver in the suspect's pocket.
"No piece of property is worth your own life," Lee said.
The man who called police and led Excalibur security to the suspect did not want to be interviewed for this story. His call to police and the surveillance video from the Excalibur were made part of a court public record in the case against the suspect. 8 News NOW obtained the recording and video by going to court and paying for a copy.
DISCLOSURE: In the interest of full disclosure, the federal public defender is defending the suspect in this case who is facing a firearms charge. I-Team reporter Glen Meek formerly worked in the Federal Public Defender's office and that's how he became aware of the case.
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