@UMNCRIME needs to stop

Whether it leads to an arrest or doesn’t, students shouldn’t be indiscriminately passing along tips and “investigating” crimes online.

Though their actions led to the arrest of two alleged burglars this week, the woman behind @UMNCRIME and other students shouldn’t pat themselves on the back. In fact, this most recent incident is further proof that “investigating” crimes on social media needs to stop.

After several apartments in FloCo Fusion were burglarized last month, students spread photos of two “suspects” that had been sent out by building management. One student whose apartment had been robbed posted the photos on his Facebook page, which has more than 2,000 likes. @UMNCRIME reposted the photos to its 1,000 followers, along with inane commentary about one man’s resemblance to Justin Bieber.

The Twitter account continued to indiscriminately repost “tips,” including additional, dubiously sourced tips, photos and names of the men. The account also said, definitively, that the two men were burglars. Some of these tweets contained errors, which the account later acknowledged. But because none of the information was sourced in the first place, it’s unclear whether other posts were made in error. Meanwhile, the account continued to publish vague rumors of crime around campus, including an attempted kidnapping, without sources or context.

While it’s true the student who reported seeing the “suspects” recognized them from social media, the men were already being investigated by police in connection with the burglaries. Besides that initial call, the photos and online manhunt didn’t factor into the arrest at all, and it’s likely the pair would have been arrested anyway.

In a previous editorial, we weighed in on @UMNCRIME, writing that it takes advantage of and fuels campus anxiety over crime while also making light of it in an inappropriate way. It was extremely irresponsible for students and FloCo management to spread these photos, tips and names with no vetting or sources.

Further, this incident proved that @UMNCRIME is not a reliable source of information on campus safety and could actually be destructive.