Those using social media for illicit activities might want to reconsider. Police in the United Kingdon just used a photo posted on WhatsApp to bust a drug dealer.
The BBC is reporting that police in the UK used a photograph from a mobile phone to secure 11 convictions. The case began with a tip that people were selling drugs from a house in Bridgend, Wales.
When police raided the home, they found “large quantities” of the strain of cannabis known as Gorilla Glue. The cops also seized a mobile phone during the raid. On it, they found more evidence of illegal activity.
“It had a number of texts such as ‘what do you want to buy?’ on it,” said Dave Thomas of the South Wales Police scientific support unit.
Investigators also found incriminating WhatsApp messages on the phone. One of them included a photograph of ecstasy tablets in someone’s palm.
“There was then the photograph of the hand holding pills that seemed like it was sent to potential customers saying ‘these are my wares, I’m selling these’. But he was not thinking it showed part of his hand and there was potentially a fingerprint,” Thomas said.
Because the photo did not include clearly visible prints from a fingertip, they were not able to make a database search. But when comparing prints from lower on the finger in the photo with those of a suspect in the case, they found a match. That information helped secure the conviction.
Thomas believes it is the first time fingerprints in a photograph have been used to solve a crime in Wales. He called the technique “groundbreaking,” but also said that it was based on tried and true methods.
“It is an old-fashioned technique [fingerprinting], not new,” he said. “Ultimately, beyond everything else, we took a phone and looked at everything on it – we knew it had a hand with drugs on it.”
The scientific team used advanced technology in order to use the partial prints they had.
“While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer,” Thomas said.
Thomas also said that more police officers are eager to use his methods for other pending cases.
“It has now opened the floodgates and when there is part of a hand on a photograph, officers are sending them in,” he said.
Final Hit: Police Use WhatsApp Photo To Bust Drug Dealer
Police are also using advanced technology in other ways, Thomas said. But they’re not alone.
“These guys [the dealers] are using the technology not to get caught and we need to keep up with advancements,” he said.
He said that in the future, his team will be able to process clues immediately, right at the scene of the crime.
“We want to be in a position where there is a burglary at 20:30, we can scan evidence and by 20:45 be waiting at the offender’s front door and arrest them arriving home with the swag,” he added.
“That will work through remote transmission – scanning evidence at the scene and sending it back quickly for a match. It’s the future,” Thomas said.
“We are not there yet but it could significantly enhance the ability of the local bobbies to arrest people very quickly.”