By Audrey McNamara
Police in San Jose, California, say a kidnapped 14-year-old girl’s quick-thinking use of Snapchat led them straight to her location. The victim was drugged, disoriented and unaware of where she was when she put out a plea for help on the popular app.
“Somebody help me. I’m in a random man’s car … I am not in Santa Cruz. Where am I?” the girl messaged friends, CBS San Francisco Bay Area reports.
The girl’s friends who received the message were able to see her location, and shared it with police. Authorities were led to a motel outside downtown San Jose. Investigators say the teen was drugged with PCP, and kidnapped from a strip mall near Santa Cruz — nearly 40 miles from where she was rescued, according to court documents.
Ahmed Banafa, a cybersecurity expert at San Jose State University, told CBS San Francisco Bay Area that using Snapchat to share your location is easier than calling 911 in dangerous situations.
“It’s easy to go through the app. Because when you’re calling police, people can overhear you,” he said. “This is a silent way to broadcast your location. And you have to understand that Snapchat broadcasts your location to multiple friends — not just one.”
Banafa said when the information is shared, it can precisely pinpoint your location.
“It is very precise — within a few feet. I’ve tested it many times. It’s even your position inside a building. It give an approximate location for where that person is standing,” Banafa said.
When officers arrived at the San Jose motel on Tuesday they found the teen and arrested Albert Thomas Vasquez on suspicion of multiple charges. The charges included kidnapping to commit rape, as well as false imprisonment and rape by intoxication or a controlled substance.
Vasquez, a 55-year-old from San Jose, allegedly met the girl near Santa Cruz and gave her drugs, police said, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He then called Antonio Quirino Salvador, 34, and Hediberto Gonzalez Avarenga, 31. Police say the three men then put the girl in a car against her will, where Vasquez sexually assaulted her. Once at the motel, police say the men carried the girl to a second-floor room where Vasquez allegedly sexually assaulted her again.
Salvador and Avarenga were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and conspiracy on Wednesday.
Anyone with additional information about the case is asked to contact Detective Anthony Barajas of the San Jose Police Department’s sexual assault investigations unit at (408) 277-4102. Information can also be left anonymously through the Crime Stoppers tip line at (408) 947-7867.