Monterey County

Authorities credit social media with safe return of toddler

Toddler abducted when thief stole family car, car later abandoned in Salinas

Social media impacts police investigations

SALINAS, Calif. - The social media buzz continues about the role social media played in the safe return of a 22-month-old boy.

Authorities say the child's parents left the car unattended for just a few minutes when a car thief took off with the child inside. The thief was quick, but word spread on social media even faster.

It was shared countless times from multiple police agencies and community watch pages. It struck a chord with one Facebook user, who saw the post on the Salinas Crime and News and Community Events page.

Victor Worden is a father of two daughters. He said he jumped into his car and drove around his neighborhood, wanting to help locate the child. He did, in a Rite Aid parking lot on Williams Road, about 45 minutes after the child went missing.

"Decided, maybe I'll drive around the backside because if you're gonna drop the car, there's less people to look around on the back side," Worden said. "I happened to drive past the white car, looked in my mirror and saw the bright green rims, backed up, looked at the license plate number. It was the same one that was on Facebook. Blocked the car in and called the cops."

He looked in the car and saw the little boy covered with a blanket, still asleep. He was returned to his parents a short time later.

Salinas Chief of Police Kelly McMillin said in this instance, social media helped to save the day. It seems to work in some cases better than others.

"Emotional issues like children, particularly horrific crimes where we have good suspect information," McMillin said. "People are willing to engage at different levels. We know that with social media, that level of awareness is really important and that's really the value of social media in cases like this."

Just recently, a credit card thief was identified within an hour of authorities posting her picture on Facebook.

But social media has its downsides. One of them is people posting in real time what law enforcement is doing in dangerous situations.

"Another downside, of course, is when erroneous information gets out there and becomes taken as fact, when it's incorrect or misconstrued and so we're in this endless cycle of trying to reel in misinformation," McMillin said.

He recommends people trust official sources, so the right information is spread over social media.

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