As reported by the New York Daily News earlier this week, Brooklyn police officers were able to arrest an entire burglary gang called the Brower Boys by simply befriending the burglars on Facebook. Working in Crown Heights, Officer Michael Rodrigues sent friend requests to several members of the burglary crew and simply monitored status updates to piece together information about recent and upcoming heists. In one instance, a gang member posted “It’s break-in day on the avenue” on Facebook, thus allowing Rodrigues to monitor his actions during the day. The police had been aware of the gang’s activity for approximately one year, but was able to track the gang members to each burglary location after the Facebook post and film them in the act before arresting them.
The gang was made up of approximately fourteen teenagers ranging in ages from 13 to 19 and had focused on stealing electronics from empty apartments in order to sell the illegally-obtained goods to stores within the city. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes indicated that the criminal behavior had escalated to violence recently with the sexual assault of a woman during a home invasion earlier this year. The entire crew faces a 102-count indictment for robbery and burglary as well as other more serious charges.
According to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the Brower Boys continued to use Facebook to organize criminal action even after becoming aware of other gangs in Brooklyn that were indicted during January 2012 when police used their posts on Twitter and Facebook as evidence against them. Instead, they joked about becoming targets of the police and continued to discuss how they would divide up cash received from the sale of stolen electronics. At least one member of the gang attempted to dissuade others from posting information about each theft on Facebook, but the others simply laughed at him.