Vancouver area police are hoping players of the game Ingress can help them solve the murder of a 33-year old Burnaby man.
Last Thursday, Elmer Libertino was found dead in a Moscrop Street lane. Police think a virtual portal set by Ingress game players in the area means someone may have seen something relating to the homicide. The game requires players be physically present at the place a portal is set.
“There may have been quite a few people on foot in the area of Moscrop and Smith around this time and we are asking those people to come forward to tell us if they saw anything including Mr. Libertino in the area,” said IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Stephanie Ashton.
Ingress is multiplayer augmented reality game that was created by Niantic, a gaming creator owned by Google. The game is a virtual battle between two groups, “The Enlightened” and “The Resistance”. The goal of the game is to capture portals set on a virtual map. Players use weapons like “XMP Bursters”, “Resonators” and “Heat Sinks” to turn a portal to the side they are on.
A private beta of Ingress was launched in 2012, and the game became publicly available in December of last year.
If the Vancouver police can find an Ingress player to help solve the murder of Elmer Libertino, it wouldn’t be the first time geotagging has been used to solve crime.
Jason Pack, supervisory special agent at the FBI’s national press office, says geotagging social media sites have become part of the crime fighting arsenal of authorities at various levels.
“I’ve seen police officers use Foursquare in particular to check into a bar in the entertainment district … for example when they were looking for a sexual assault suspect,” he said. “(One) particular officer would check in to let people know he was there in the hopes someone would give him information. But as an added benefit, he let the women at the bar know he existed.”
But geotagging can also have the opposite effect. In 2007, American helicopters in Iraq were destroyed after pictures posted on Facebook automatically geotagged photos of them with their GPS co-ordinates.