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New Zealand police use Facebook to stop crime

  • Story Highlights
  • Security camera records man unsuccessfully trying to break into a pub's safe
  • Becoming hot, he removed his balaclava and looked up right at the camera
  • Police posted the images on the popular social networking site, Facebook
  • By the next day, he was in custody, fingered by viewers who recognized him
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By Saeed Ahmed
CNN
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(CNN) -- Police in southern New Zealand nabbed a would-be burglar after they posted security camera images of him trying to break into a safe on the popular social networking site, Facebook.

The man is caught on camera with sparks flying from an angle grinder as he tries to crack open a safe.

Having removed his balaclava after his efforts made him hot, the would-be burglar looks up at a security camera.

The Queenstown police are calling it their first Facebook arrest. The police department created its online presence on the site just two months ago, said Constable Sean Drader.

"It's pretty popular, isn't it, this site?" Drader told CNN Wednesday, surprised at the quick success.

The 21-year-old masked man allegedly broke into a local pub through a roof early Monday morning and spent considerable time trying to crack open a safe using an angle grinder.

"It's a very small room that he broke into, and it was hot weather. It's summer here," Drader said. "There are sparks flying all about him. And after about an hour, he gets too hot and takes his gloves and balaclava off."

Unable to break open the safe, the man gave up and got ready to leave, Drader said.

"He looks around to see if he's forgotten anything, and he looks up right at the camera. It was rather silly. We got a good look," he said.

The police department posted the surveillance camera photos on its Facebook page. By the next day, the man was in custody, fingered by viewers who recognized him from the images on the site, and from TV segments on the Facebook posting.

Police did not release the suspect's name, but said the Queenstown native is charged with two counts of burglary.

Facebook, the Web's most popular social networking site, allows users to create personal profiles. They can then connect with one another, upload photos and share links. The site boasts more than 90 million active users.

In November, Facebook helped a seafood restaurant owner in Melbourne identify five customers who dined on oysters, trout and expensive wine and then bolted without paying the US $323 bill.

According to media reports, the owner remembered one of the diners asking about a former waitress.

The waitress suggested the restaurateur look through her friend's list on Facebook. A quick scroll later, the owner spotted one of the bill dodgers.

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