Crime File: Global Gamer Community Tracks Down Xbox 360 Thieves

When his Xbox 360, Apple PowerBook and flat-screen TV were stolen in a recent break-in, Jesse McPherson (left) had no inkling that gamers from around the world would band together to hunt down the thieves.

Frustrated by what he said was a lack of police response, McPherson began a bit of his own sleuthing and found that someone had tried to sell his PowerBook at a nearby pawn shop. As the Philadelphia Daily News reports, the big break in the case came after McPherson’s coworkers chipped in to buy him a new 360. When he logged on to Xbox Live, one of the thieves began taunting him and even left voice messages offering to sell the stolen console back to McPherson.

When McPherson posted the story of the brazen – but not especially clever – thief on Digg, the gaming community too notice and swung into action. Armed with the crook’s Xbox Live GamerTag, they found his online photo collection, his self-made rap video on YouTube and even his real name, address and phone number.

The thief soon found himself targeted by an onslaught of gamers who filled his accounts with nasty messages and called his house continually. One gamer in England even posted an audio file of a conversation he had with the crook’s mother. Eventually, the pressure became too great and McPherson’s 360 and his PowerBook were returned to him. The police made a fingerprint match and were preparing to arrest two suspects.

GP: This story once again shows the impressive power of gamers for collective action. Daily News reporter Ronnie Polaneczky frets, however, about the potential for online vigilantism:

I’m glad that so many strangers rallied behind McPherson. But, I’ll be honest with you – his story chills me. Vigilante justice can be chaotic and uncontrollable, whether it’s conducted online or face-to-face…

On the other hand, what have we come to when a home invasion elicits what comes across as a shrug from police, instead of urgent action? And should we expect anything less than vigilante action as frustrated victims become technologically savvy enough to take justice into their own hands?

The local Fox affiliate, WTXF-29 has a video report on McPherson’s case:

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