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A snapshot leads to mugshots.
“Selfie” may be the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, but narcissistic self-regard, like crime, doesn’t pay. This week, Winnipeg police were able to track down a stolen iPhone and arrest three teen suspects when one used the device to snap photos of himself.
The phone’s owner had also previously installed a tracking app. That, plus the incriminating portrait, made tracking down the alleged young muggers child’s play for law enforcement.
Winnipeg constable Rob Carver was even laughing when he told CBC News the story. “So they took a selfie—a guy takes a picture of himself,” he said. “The pictures were automatically posted to [the victim’s] Cloud account.”
Carver surmised that the kids, aged 14, 15, and 16, had no idea they were being watched. “A guy takes a picture of himself and doesn’t realize that if the phone is set up to do that, the picture populates to your account, which can be shown on other devices.” Nonetheless, he warned, victims should always contact the authorities instead of hunting down thieves themselves.
This is hardly the first time an ill-advised selfie has outed a vain or careless criminal. In August, a man mistakenly uploaded a photo to his victim’s Facebook account after snatching her iPhone. In September, Rihanna sparked an investigation in Thailand into the illegal possession of a protected species after she posted a snapshot of herself posing with a slow loris.
There’s also the galling case of Dion Hayes. The Australian man went on the lam after police slapped him with some 20 child pornography charges. But he continued to uploading snapping photos of his money stash and half-naked body—unaware he hadn’t severed the connection between his iPad and a computer he had sold before fleeing prosecution. The current owner of that computer saw new photos drop into a folder as Hayes took them. After some amateur sleuthing, he contacted police, who arrested the fugitive not long after.
As far as crime trends go, this has got to be one detectives are happy about.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'