Identity theft is supposedly the #1 crime in America right now, according to all of my creditors. Thousands (?millions?) of people have their identity (and associated materials) stolen every year. Yet, it is really hard to track down these criminals and most law enforcement has to focus on violent crimes. I mean, who really has time to go after petty criminals who used someone’s credit card to buy burgers?
Yet, this situation interests me beyond my personal investment. Don’t get me wrong.. on a personal level, i’m pretty pissed that these guys had the gaul to come to my party and steal my shit. But on a meta-level, there are some interesting questions.
If the United States really is a small world, the people that i know should know people [iterate to on average 5.5] that know these guys, right? If blogs can extend beyond the echo-chamber, shouldn’t we be able to use blogs to reach the people who know these guys?
We’re living in a society that is quickly becoming camera-phone enabled. We’re worried about privacy when these pictures are broadcast, understandably. But can we use the breaks in privacy to demand legal justice? We often talk about how the Interweb is affecting the regulation of social norms… Can the connected community around the Interweb also enforce law?
Already, through this situation, i’ve seen the power of care. I’ve seen amazing people who i barely know act up to say this isn’t cool and do what they can to acquire information, spread the word, repost those pictures, etc. I’ve heard from people who’ve gone through similar situations. I’m in awe of the strangers who are being supportive, of the number of people who have experienced similar crap, with no justice.
Can we go beyond support? Can the Interweb/blogosphere actually demand justice on a personal level? And if i can demand justice for me, can it demand justice for others in a similar predicament? Can citizens take control over the thieves?
Having your identity materials stolen is very disempowering. Having to wait for cops to maybe consider trying to solve this problem is depressing. I don’t know if anything will come out of my broadcasting this situation, but it sure is empowering to try. And it really makes me wonder just how powerful the Interweb can be.
Feel free to spread the word and help me identify these people, particularly if you have contacts in Austin.
Update: I forgot to note that i feel badly for misusing the term robbery here. I hadn’t realized that robbery and theft were not synonymous until the discussion emerged from this post. More precisely, i didn’t realize that robbery had to involve force, which this incident did not.