Social Media Theft Task Force: Thieves Use Instagram, Snapchat to Broadcast Possession of Handbags, Luggage

Police across California are investigating a series of thefts at high-end stores where suspects used Instagram and Snapchat to broadcast their actions.

Several businesses in San Diego have experienced the “Social Media Robbery Task Force,” with theft suspects posting pictures of themselves inside various stores, including places like Macy’s and Neiman Marcus.

“What does social media really accomplish? To divert public attention. To actually distract officers from what’s going on in the store,” San Diego police detective Gabriel Betancourt told ABC 7 News.

The theft task force is comprised of police officers, forensic analysts and experts from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Police say the task force is monitoring social media sites for clothing racks swiped from luxury brands and appears to be a new trend.

The robbery task force has been solving thefts for months and has already recovered merchandise from eight retailers.

“There is one shop that specifically let us into their supply chain. They allowed us to tap into all of their shipping data,” Betancourt told ABC 7 News.

Through that process, the investigators determined the thieves were part of a larger network across the country.

“They have clearly established a pattern of social media to solicit merchandise and then subsequently get rid of that merchandise,” said Betancourt.

San Diego Police Detective Terry Coynell is leading the robbery task force and says they’re seeing a shift in the targets of the robberies.

“It’s becoming more sophisticated,” Coynell told ABC 7 News. “We’ve had a number of social media strategies identified and actually going through these social media networks, so it’s time consuming but it’s definitely an investigative task and area.”

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