As a criminology academic, I love learning about new ways that criminals are using technology to commit their illegal deeds and, concerning more noble pursuits, how law enforcement is using some of these same advances to bring the criminals to justice.
Emily Stone, the protagonist in most of my novels, is an expert with the most impressive of surveillance tools. Her integration of mental strength and basic intuition with the finest products of the digital age is what makes her efforts so successful. In my work, though, particularly in my book Dead Game, I look at how those with evil intentions operate in ways, and within virtual worlds, that weren’t considered possible even ten years ago.
While not necessarily evil, a pair of shoplifters in Kentucky taught us this week that even the most simple and time-tested crimes in our society—stealing clothes from a shopping mall—has a new technological twist.
Ronald Murrell and Kimberly Starks were arrested last week after witnesses at the Jefferson Mall noticed that they were walking out of multiple stores with merchandise that did not appear to have been purchased. Upon being stopped for speeding after leaving the mall, a search of the car yielded more than $2700 worth of merchandise.
The relevant part of this story to my post is that the thieving duo apparently was taking requests. Police officers found several cell phone text conversations in which friends or associates had requested specific items to be stolen. And, the phone continued to buzz constantly throughout the arrest process, likely from more hopeful recipients of stolen goods.
While Murrell and Starks weren’t using their cell phone numbers to plan a violent murder or overthrow of the government, I think it’s interesting to note how we communicate with one another has affected every aspect of our lives—from dating to attending college classes to mapping out preferred shoplifting destinations to meet requests.
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