Virtual APB finds the criminal and reveals the power of offline social networks


Ten years ago Eli and I were housemates. I moved away from State College, PA but she knew I still knew people there. That is this week why she tagged me and 100 of her closest Facebook friends with this message:

State College/Centre County friends, past and present- I seriously need your help! Today, I was the victim of a hit and run accident. I was outside of my vehicle, and the woman came within a foot of hitting me. She hit the car door that I was right inside of as I was buckling my toddler into her carseat. She did not apologize or ask if I was OK. She asked if I wanted to exchange insurance info, and I told her that I was going to call the police so they could take a report. I reached into my vehicle to get my phone, and when I next looked up she was gone. The police called an ambulance to check my vitals because I am due in less than two weeks and I was shaking and my heart was racing from the shock of the incident. Thankfully I am OK, but this woman came within inches of killing me and/or my unborn child.

Unfortunately, the police say that it is unlikely that they will find this woman because I was unable to give them much information. It all happened within a few minutes. I never imagined that she would take off. If I had, I would have taken a picture of her plate and vehicle.

Please help me find this cold hearted woman by looking out for her as you drive around! Or if you no longer live in the area, please tag anyone you know who still does. She needs to be caught. She was a white woman in her 70s or early 80s. She had white hair and wire rimmed glasses. She was driving a sporty compact vehicle that was FIRE ENGINE RED. Her passenger side view mirror was knocked off during the accident. The accident occurred near the corner of Burrowes and Fairmont Ave in State College.

If you see a vehicle fitting this description, please take the license plate information and message me immediately. Also please share this status with anyone you know who lives in this area. I have made it visible to all.

Like — with 46 others.


4 people like this. 235 shares

Later that day she posted another Facebook update.

So today was a crazy day. I ended up visiting the ER because I had so much adrenaline pumping through my system that my heart was racing, I was shaking violently, and I felt ice cold. After 3 hours, an IV, bloodwork, an EKG, and an ultrasound, I was sent home as OK.

Then I came home to a message that a local insurance agent (who had seen my post because a friend had shared it) might know who hit my car. An 83-year-old woman called the agency stating that she needed to get her side view mirror reattached to her car, which was red. She wouldn’t give details of the accident but said that it had involved a pregnant lady! The agency called the police but had to leave a message because the detective was out.

Isn’t Facebook amazing?

And within twelve hours from the hit-and-run accident, someone with the power to bring justice had been alerted and had taken action.

Elizabeth Anne Bragg 21 hours ago – In case you missed it:

Hit and run case tentatively solved thanks to Facebook! Almost 300 people shared my story, and one of those people just happened to be Facebook friends with an Allstate agent. Shortly after reading my story, the agent overheard that an elderly woman had called in to ask about having her side view mirror reattached after an accident involving a pregnant woman. She was vague at first, but Allstate did some investigative work and determined that it was the same woman that hit me. They immediately called the police and sent me a message via Facebook inviting me to call the agent at home until 1:00 a.m! I have been blown away by their care and concern, and I’m seriously considering transferring my coverage to them. Go Allstate!

This wouldn’t have been possible if so many people hadn’t reached out to help me. I had two news agencies offer to cover my story, body shops messaging me for further information, a resident of the neighborhood where the accident occurred offering to review surveillance footage on their home security system, and countless strangers offering sympathy, support, tips, and assistance.

This truly is a wonderful community where people reach out to help those in need. If you shared my story with others, please share this happy update on your page. We no longer need to look for the driver. It’s time to share the good news of the power of small acts of kindness.

This story is less about Facebook and mostly about human kindness and concern. It was Allstate agent who was a friend of a friend of a friend of Eli’s that saw the story and overheard an offline conversation and connected the dots. The woman called his office (and given the insurance market, there were really only about six offices she could have called) and he realized who she must have been.

The six-o-clock news version left out all the emotions that her 100 friends had that caused us to take action, and focused only on the victim’s pain:

If you want to see me awkwardly retelling my story, watch the 5:30 WJAC-TV news. The live broadcast can also be viewed on I was very nervous, but I am certain that they will make me sound eloquent and confident. 🙂

And later…

Ha ha! According to WTAJ my name is actually Emma Braggs which is hilarious since Emma was my dog’s name and the footage that they showed of my Facebook page showed my name as ELIZABETH BRAGG.

It was very short. Let’s hope that the story that will run on is more accurate and thorough!

Elli’s Facebook updates were the best and most accurate retelling of the story, because everybody who was involved was on that page. The kind of swift justice she got is the sort of thing – based on feedback loops and engaging people with the agency to change things that I work on at Feedback Labs:

feedback loop members

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