Justice for Junior: Social media plays key role in investigation

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Danielle Leigh reports on community policing playing a big role in capturing suspects involved in Bronx teen's murder.

The NYPD credited the public and social media with aiding in the arrests of eight suspects wanted in connection with the fatal stabbing of an innocent teen outside a bodega in the Bronx last week.

"We in the NYPD have never experienced such an outpouring of information through various means," NYPD Inspector Thomas Conforti said. "When you have a community as big as 8.5 million people, the boundaries of what we can accomplish are endless."

Conforti said police received hundreds of calls to Crime Stoppers about the killing of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, affectionately known as Junior, which was captured on surveillance video late Wednesday, June 20.

An initial post by the NYPD to Twitter of the surveillance video, which captured the suspects, netted more than 2.9 million views and more than 29,000 retweets.

A separate tweet by an NYPD chief was viewed another 235,000 times, and on Instagram, the hashtag #JusticeForJunior was used in more than 140,000 posts by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B.

According to Conforti, Crime Stoppers had to nearly double its staffing as it responded to anonymous calls coming in from around the country, largely in response to social media posts.

A Facebook page "Justice for Junior" also attracted more than 10,000 members distraught over the brutal killing.

"What they did to that boy was upsetting, and I'm glad people stepped up and called us," said Detective Hector Nieves, who was among those taking in Crime Stoppers tips.

Within hours of NYPD's first post to social media, police had identified several of the suspects. And in a matter of days, they'd arrested two people in the Bronx and six in Paterson, New Jersey.

"Social media is a power house when it comes to communicating," Conforti said.

The interest continued as more than 600,000 people watched on Facebook as Eyewitness News aired a live press conference with Junior's mom reacting to the arrests.

His funeral, also aired by Channel 7, was viewed by more than half a million people on Facebook.

"It's amazing to me, because this started out as printed posters on trees around neighborhoods," said Susan Birnbaum, CEO of the NYC Police Foundation, which supports Crime Stoppers.

Police called the level of team work between Crime Stoppers and the public something to be modeled.

"It's where we want to be going into the future," Conforti said.

In its 35-year history, Crime Stoppers has helped solve more than 5,000 crimes and given out more than $2 million in rewards, according to the Police Foundation.

Tips are always anonymous and can be made by calling 1-800-577-TIPS.

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