Online social networking sites lead to burglaries

Credit: Frances Soong/Art Staff Credit: Frances Soong/Art Staff
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Whenever one hears about Internet crime, one usually pictures a case of identity theft, fund embezzlement, or stalking. In a recent arrest of several California youths, however, all three of these crimes were combined in a bizarre affair involving the burglaries of several Hollywood celebrities’ houses.

A group of six young adults, christened by newspapers and entertainment websites as “The Bling Ring,” and ranging from ages 18 to 27, have been stealing jewelry, clothing, and other celebrity memorabilia from residences in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Victimized celebrities include Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Orlando Bloom.

The real stroke of genius of the “Bling Ring” is the way they orchestrated these burglaries. By checking websites such as and MySpace, they could check the daily schedules of these celebrities and even their addresses. The Ring could then coordinate the timing of the thefts with when the celebs said that they would be out of the house.

The thefts have not been mild. In a search of one of the members of the Ring’s houses, police found over $20,000, designer jeans, and photographs of Hilton, all suspected to be taken from the socialite’s home. The Ring was able to return about three or four times before they were targeted by the LAPD.

The sheer resourcefulness of the kids amazes me, especially since it was not an overly elaborate crime. All it took was a few clicks of a mouse, a map, and a car. We’re so used to living in the digital age and loving all of the services it has to offer, but when drawbacks like these hit, they hit hard.

A more pressing issue, however, is the fact that the information was on these social networking sites to begin with. With the recent upsurge in popularity of self-promoting websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, people are finding it easier to give a brief vignette on how they feel, what they’re doing, or where they’re going, but you’d think that these same people — especially celebrities who probably have more followers on Twitter than I do skin cells — would know better than to put their personal info up in great detail where anyone can see it. Sure, it’s nice to hear about the latest celebrity scandal purely to indulge in some healthy schadenfreude, but details like your in-depth daily schedule are best kept to yourself.

As for the kids involved, you may think to yourself: Is this the work of fanatic stalkers? Or some troubled rich teens with too much time on their hands? Considering it was clothing that was stolen, one would probably be more apt to believe the stalker theory. But when you consider the clothing and accessory budgets of some of these celebrities, it could have been a stylistic or financial move on the Ring’s part. And what else are a bunch of teens going to do in a celebrity-rich neighborhood of California on a Saturday night?

Opportunity and boredom: What a winning combination.