Florida wildlife officials are going undercover online to catch poachers who take to Facebook to boast about catching their prey.
From underage drinking to pornography and every crime in between, some criminals recklessly share their exploit with Facebook friends, mistakenly thinking law enforcement won’t find the photos, videos status updates that end up becoming evidence.
The lawbreakers’ online friends often become whistleblowers. In Florida, tipsters can earn $100 for each tip they share with wildlife officials.
Take the case of Brian Spuler, who speared a snook in the Intracoastal Waterway in June, which is off-season for the fish.
Spuler proudly posted photos of his catch on Facebook and gave the fish to his Mom for dinner. Days later, he was arrested and fined $350, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The Internet Crimes Unit of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission formed in late 2009 to address the growing number of Internet-related calls that now number about 10 a week in South Florida — all of them involving people who post images of hunting and fishing out of season.
The urge to brag on the Internet is a boon to investigators, who use the online photos, videos and comments as evidence. They create fake Facebook accounts to befriend fishermen and hunters or, most often, access photos through a tipster’s account.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Spuler said that investigators violated his privacy, and that he didn’t know it was illegal to fish snook at the time. However, he said he thinks he allowed public access to his photos. Whoops! He also told the newspaper:
Every day I see people posting pictures of marijuana and cocaine, and I get in trouble for this?
Readers, what do you think of Florida wildlife officials’ use of Facebook to catch poachers?