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This article was published on April 9, 2012

Twitter-driven search leads to the rescue of a carjacking victim

Twitter-driven search leads to the rescue of a carjacking victim

We all love the quintessential image of the superhero – cape flowing in the wind, underwear worn over pants, coming out of nowhere to save the day. While Twitter certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical criteria, the social networking tool has some superhero, save-the-day qualities about it.

Over the weekend Twitter played an integral role in saving a man whose car was hijacked in Johannesburg.

Driving in the South African city, the man found himself the victim of a carjacking, quickly forced into the boot of his car. Luckily, the carjackers didn’t realise that he still had his cell phone on him.

He shot off a text message to his girlfriend, who decided that one tool at her disposal to help her find him was Twitter:

With a modest following on Twitter, her friends began to spread the word, until one of them tweeted a request to @PigSpotter, a Johannesburg-based user with a 100,000+ following:

 The Twitter user, who uses his account to warn Johannesburg drivers about speeding traps, continued to update followers on the story:

Within just over an hour of the text message being sent, private rescue teams and security firms were involved, thanks to Twitter, and a search was quickly underway, using none other than his cellphone to trace his location.

Security firm K9 Law Enforcement was able to track down the coordinates of the car, but it wasn’t until another hour had passed, that word came through that, hitting a roadblock, the hijackers abandoned the car, and both car and owner were found:

Speaking to local South African newspaper, The Star, @PigSpotter said, “I think this does go to show [how] effective a networking tool PigSpotter and in general Twitter actually is. This is not the first incident where someone has been rescued, or a vehicle has been retrieved as a direct result of tweeting me and it being RT’ed, and reaching the correct people at the exact moment.”

Twitter puts rescue and law enforcement teams at its users disposal in a way that traditional methods simply can’t. It opens up a network of people willing to help, and in this case, led to a happy ending.

While authorities the world over may be listening in on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, some are looking into how social networks can play a role in reporting crime.

This particular incident in South Africa certainly highlights the potential that Twitter has, with its vast network of people willing to help, as a crime-solving tool.