Robbery Victim Uses Internet to Track X-Box Thief

A thief who stole an X-Box game player in Philadelphia got more than he bargained for when the rightful owner blogged about the theft. Gamers tracked the thief through the Internet and spammed him into submission. The X-Box was anonymously returned.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Turns out, you don't need the police to solve some crimes. Jesse McPherson was away when his Philadelphia home was robbed.

Mr. JESSE McPHERSON (Resident, Philadelphia): The TV was ripped right off the wall, and the Xbox was taken as well as my girlfriend's old PowerBook.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

So he did call the police, not much they could do. And he went to a local pawnshop. Yes, said the owner, a fellow was trying to pawn a laptop just the other day. McPherson left with a snapshot from the surveillance footage.

NORRIS: Meanwhile, his co-workers brought him a new Xbox and when he hooked it up to the Internet, he heard this.

Unidentified Man: Yo dude, I got your Xbox. If you want it, you can buy it back (unintelligible).

NORRIS: Well, we snipped a few choice words out of that message, but that's the gist of it. So McPherson called police again. Still, not much they could do. McPherson posted the snapshot, the audioand his story to his blog on a Saturday night.

Mr. McPHERSON: I woke up at around 4 a.m. and realized that I was on the front page of Digg, and all this stuff is going on. And my blog is being crushed.

SIEGEL: He was on the front page of Digg, the online site that elevates postings by popularity, and his blog was being crushed - that's a good thing. The online crowd had traced the username on the Xbox message to a YouTube account and to MySpace, and then bombarded the thief with messages. McPherson heard from him again.

Mr. McPHERSON: I was getting messages and e-mails from the person saying, I can't sleep because I'm beat from getting harassed, and people are calling me.

NORRIS: In the end, a young man appeared at Jesse McPherson's doorstep with his laptop, and the stolen Xbox later arrived in a white trash bag. The TV, it's still at large. McPherson says there is one long-term benefit from the whole episode.

Mr. McPHERSON: A pretty good way to start a blog.

SIEGEL: Well, the many things you can do with an Xbox are just one topic of INTERN EDITION. That's the show put together by our own interns Ariel Kitch(ph) and Travis Larcha(ph) and others here at NPR. INTERN EDITION debuted today, and you can hear their stories at npr.org/internedition.

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