Can just a tweet and an offer of amnesty lead to a stolen phone's return?
SEPTA police found out: The answer is yes.
When a Broad Street Line rider left a phone behind at the Cecil B. Moore Station, an unknown woman picked up the device, but kept it for herself instead of handing the phone over to station staff or police.
So SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel took the case to Twitter on Friday. He posted a surveillance image of the suspect on the social network, along with an unusual offer of amnesty if the phone was returned by Dec. 4: "Give Transit Police the phone that you took at CB Moore station & you won't be arrested."
By the next day, the chief had good news to report: The phone had been returned.
Nestel called the outcome a win, saying the victim got the phone back and the woman who took the device gets a second chance.
The unidentified woman could have faced a misdemeanor offense of theft of mislaid property, but isn't facing charges.
The unusual crime-solving tactic generated buzz on social media throughout the weekend, as Nestel responded to a number of detractors.
"Keep in mind that we didn't know identity of suspect & probably wouldn't have recovered phone otherwise," he wrote in response to one Twitter user who called the amnesty offer an "exercise in futility."
As news of the phone's return spread, Nestel wrote on the social platform: "My amnesty offer generated lots of convo among police. Many admitted to me that they were opposed and now think it was good idea. Progress."