Facebook group assists police in alleged serial thief’s arrest

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A group that solves crime cases through social media helped Miami Beach Police arrest an alleged serial thief, Friday.

According to Miami Beach Police, 48-year-old Kenneth Collins used a woman’s credit card after it was stolen while she was sunbathing along the 1700 block of the beach, in early October.

“They’ll basically creep around until they notice there’s an opportunity because it’s so dark out here,” said a member of the Facebook group who eventually led police to the suspect. “They’ll just sneak up on someone. They’ll grab something. People won’t even hear them. They won’t even notice.”

Police used surveillance video from the Walgreens where the victim’s credit card was used to identify Collins. Earlier this week, investigators generated a flier.

A Facebook group of anti-crime activists saw the flier and immediately recognized him. “This is his turf. The wanted poster came out. I said, ‘OK, I’m gonna go on my bike and go to his little turf here, and within five minutes, bingo, he was there,” said group member John Deutzman.

The activists said they had been keeping an eye on Collins for more than a year. “He’s out here every day working this boardwalk here, going all the way sometimes down to Fifth Street,” said Deutzman.

Cellphone photographs taken by the group shows the suspect along the boardwalk over an extended period of time.

“We have some 1,300 people in our group. We get pictures from all over the place,” said Deutzman.

Once they spotted Collins, activists led a police sergeant right to him as he hung out on the beach boardwalk, near 34th Street.

Photographs taken by the group captured the arrest of Collins, whom they nicknamed “Frankenstein” because of his large frame. He stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs about 225 pounds.

He has an extensive rap sheet, with several arrests going back at least 10 years.

“When a guy gets out of jail, one of our guys sees him and [says], ‘We’ve got pictures already. He’s out doing his thing again,'” said Deutzman.

Miami Beach Police Officer Ernesto Rodriguez said, thanks to the group’s dedication and quick actions, they helped capture a wanted man and probably saved others from becoming victims. “We certainly encourage their work. They’ve already yielded some results in the court processes because they attend these bond hearings, and they go before a judge, and they express their concerns for their safety,” he said. “Oftentimes we’re seeing judges raise these bonds’ amount.”

“What we’re trying to do is stop the revolving door,” said Deutzman. “Most of these guys in the past would go in on these charges and get out in one day in bond court. We’ve stopped that completely. They’re doing some time now.”

Collins is being held without bond. At the time of his arrest, he was out on bond in connection to a previous identity theft arrest.

Speaking with 7News on the phone, the sunbather who was targeted said she is doing OK.

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