A Pittsburgh man is facing several charges for a series of armed robberies that happened in July. Police say Alan Green targeted people looking to buy a car for cash from Facebook Marketplace. Court documents say Green would arrange for a place to meet and when the victims showed up with cash, instead of getting the car they came for, they were robbed of thousands of dollars.
Dr. John Cencich is a criminologist and professor at PennWest California, and says social media has become a weapon in many ways.
"This is happening all around the country," Cencich tells Channel 11. "It's a new medium for armed robbery."
From July 20-28, eight people were robbed at gunpoint over eight days in the same area of Homewood. Police say that area is not far from where Green lives.
"It's more common that the offender or the actor commits these armed robberies in a general vicinity," Cencich added. "They follow the same M.O. that can change depending on a number of factors."
The first crime happened on Haverhill Street. Three victims came with $3,000 in cash, but when they met with Green, police say they were robbed at gunpoint.
Four days after that, less than a half-mile away on Blackadore Avenue, a gun was held to a man's head and $4,500 was stolen from him when he tried to buy a car he saw on Facebook Marketplace.
Two days later, a man was pistol-whipped and he and his wife were robbed of $3,500 on Tacoma Street when they tried to buy a car they saw on Facebook Marketplace.
Another two days later, on Haverhill Street, a couple was pistol-whipped and their truck stolen when police say they tried to buy a SUV. Police say Green lured them to his father's house.
"I think that's a level of comfort and a level of inexperience as well," said Cencich. "The crime occurs there. It's not that hard for police to find the offender. It's a big lead that it was this particular house."
Cencich says with the holiday season here, thieves are preying on those who are busy and vulnerable.
"There is always an uptick around the holidays," said Cencich.
If you're buying something this holiday season from an online seller, most police departments and municipalities have a safe spot to buy and sell in a well-lit area that's monitored.
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