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Social Media Used as a Crime-Fighting Tool in Ellicott City Burglary


Social media doodles elements

With more than 4.49 billion web pages online today, the Internet is a pretty huge place. You can seemingly find anything, even the burglars who recently broke into a home.

Howard County police have charged 46-year-old Scott Matthew Onofrio and 22-year-old Kelly Ann Wallace with burglary and theft in connection with a break-in that occurred on August 11 in Ellicott City. They police were able to charge the pair based on leads they received from social media.

Following the break-in, policed posted a message on social media asking for any information connected to the burglary, as both suspects had no fixed address, making it difficult for police to track them down.

“Howard County police are seeking information about a burglary that occurred in YOUR community on Tuesday, Aug. 11,” read the post. “A resident in the 9400 block of Dunloggin Rd. came home around 6:30 p.m. to find a man armed with a knife running out of the garage. The man got into the driver’s seat of a gray SUV parked near the house, with an unknown woman in the passenger’s seat. The suspect ransacked the home and stole jewelry and other valuables. Call police if anyone knocked on your door, behaved suspiciously, or if you spotted a gray SUV. No tip is too small!”

Two residents called after seeing the post with information, which after further investigation, led to the arrest of Onofrio and Wallace.

Onofrio is now being held on $250,000 bond at the Howard County Detention Center, and Wallace’s bond was set at $75,000.

This is not the first time social media has helped police catch someone. CNN reported in 2012 that police were embracing the online platforms as a new crime-fighting tool. According to a LexisNexis Risk Solutions survey of 1,221 federal, state and local law enforcement agents who use social media, four out of five officials used it to gather intelligence during investigations.

Just this month, 19-year-old Brandon Ward looted a North St. Louis County market, and then bragged about it on Facebook. When his mother saw the post, she reported him to the police.

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