Meridian's Super Inn is the latest scene in an armed robbery that stemmed from people meeting on social media. This time, Captain Dean Harper says that around 2:30 AM Thursday morning they were called to the scene of an armed robbery where a man agreed to meet 17 year old Ashley Cole he met online, but instead walked into a meticulously planned crime.
"There's nothing wrong with the sites, per se. It's the criminal element using these sites, taking advantage of people that are trying to get a date with someone, and they're saying exactly what the victim wants to hear, so they lure them to some location and they've already got it set up."
With the increase in social media, Harper says that these cases are on the rise, but a lot of them go unreported because the victims don't want to be associated with crimes of this nature. However, Harper says they're not interested in pursuing charges against the victims because he says that when they make contact with these girls online, they think they're having a conversation between two consenting adults.
"That's why we're not interested in the aspect of a minor meeting someone to have an encounter with. We are interested in pursuing the armed robbery cases."
Some suspects from both the Highland Park and Super Inn robberies are in custody, but in both cases police are searching for suspects who were able to escape. Harper says that even though these cases are strikingly similar and only occurred about 48 hours apart, they do not believe they are dealing with an organized crime ring.
"We have made no connection what so ever in these two, or any of these individuals orchestrating this together. There is no master plan that 'I'll do this one if you do that one.' There is nothing to link those two together at this time.