On New Year’s Eve, there was a stabbing and robbery in the Boston Public Garden, which is just outside my front door. I wasn’t home that night, but my niece and one of her friends were staying at my place. So, shudder, shudder.
Anyway, a few days after the incident, the Boston Police Department released some pictures of a person of interest taken from surveillance cameras in the area. A couple of days later, a suspect was arrested and charged.
The article I saw didn’t say whether the cops found the robber/stabber because someone dimed him, but I’m guessing that might be the case based on the surveillance photo.
Increasingly, pics snapped and videos shot by surveillance cameras, and even by the man (or woman) in the street, are used to help solve crimes – the one upside of the creepiness of having all those surveillance cameras out there. Spies are everywhere, but sometimes that’s a good thing.
Bad guys are also getting nabbed through the tracking devices that are just about subcutaneously embedded in all of us these days.
In a recent case in England,
A British runner, sous chef, and underworld hitman was sentenced to life behind bars for the murder of two other Manchester-area gangsters this week — all due to data found on his Garmin Forerunner, according to the BBC. (Source: The Verge)
Runner, sous chef and underworld hitman. That’s quite a c.v. It also sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke: a runner, a sous chef, and an underworld hitman walk into a bar…
Anyway, here’s how Mark “Iceman” Fellows got found out:
He was under suspicion for the murders of crime boss Paul “Mr. Big” Massey and the murder, three years later, of Massey’s right hand man, John Kinsella.
Somewhere along the line Manchester police looked carefully at a picture of Fellows running a 10K and saw that he was wearing a GPS smartwatch. They searched his home and found it.
That GPS smartwatch, a Garmin Forerunner, turned out to be the circumstantial smoking gun.
Through the data the watch had acquired, the police were able to determine that Fellows had been observing Massey’s home in the months leading up to the murders, and plotting his getaway route.
There are other examples of smart tech helping put someone away for a crime.
Last October, heart rate data from a Fitbit was used to charge a California man with the murder of his stepdaughter.
Data found on smart speakers have also been used by authorities as evidence. Last November, a New Hampshire judge ordered Amazon to hand over recordings from an Echo smart speaker. The judge believed that the device, along with any data from paired smartphones, could help prove that the alleged killer, Dean Smoronk, was at the home at the time of the murder.
There’ve also been discussions of using toll road transponder data to pinpoint where someone is at any given time – data that can theoretically used in criminal cases, and in more personal circumstances like divorce cases.
In the 1960’s, there was a popular TV show called “The Fugitive.” (In the 1990’s it was made into a movie starring Harrison Ford.) The plot was that a man wrongly convicted of murdering his wife manages to escape when the train carrying him to death row derails. The fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble, then goes on a multiple-season quest looking for “the one-armed man”, a man that Kimble had seen running from the scene of the crime.
During his time on the lam, Kimble roamed around the country (mostly in Southern California, but sometimes further afield) hunting down his nemesis. Occasionally, Kimble was recognized, but he always lived to appear in another episode.
Nowadays, Richard Kimble wouldn’t last a full season. Surveillance cameras and facial recognition would have found him out. Google Street View would have filmed him somewhere or other. Someone would have filmed him (and/or the one-armed man) with his smartphone and posted it on Instagram in real time.
Meanwhile, let’s all be careful about we say around Alexa or Echo.
Ain’t technology grand?