Police rescued a teen last week after her friends used Snapchat to determine where she was being held.
The 14-year-old girl had been drugged, raped and taken to a motel in San Jose, California, on Jan. 14, local police said in a statement. She used Snapchat to tell her friends she had been kidnapped and didn’t know where she was. The friends figured out her location through the app and called 911, police said.
San Jose police officers intercepted Albert Thomas Vasquez, 55, as he left a room at E-Z 8 Motel. The victim was found inside the room, and Vasquez was arrested on the spot.
Subsequent police investigations found that Vasquez had met the victim in Capitola, a city in Santa Cruz County. The suspect gave the girl drugs and incapacitated her, police said. He then allegedly called two others ― later identified as Antonio Quirino Salvador, 34, and Hediberto Gonzalez Avarenga, 31 ― to help him place the victim in a vehicle.
Vasquez sexually assaulted the victim in the vehicle, then the three suspects drove her to the motel about 35 miles north of Capitola. They carried the victim to a second-floor room, where police say she was sexually assaulted again.
Vasquez faces charges of kidnapping to commit rape, digital penetration with a child under 14 with force, false imprisonment, lewd act with a child and rape by intoxication or controlled substance. Salvador and Avarenga were arrested on Jan. 15 on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy.
Snapchat allows users to share their exact locations with friends on what’s called a Snap Map. Location data updates the map when the app is open on a person’s phone. Users can decide which of their friends can access their location.
Snap Map raised privacy concerns when it was first released in 2017, as police and child safety experts cautioned people against sharing too much information about their whereabouts. The feature has reportedly been used by predators to locate and stalk teenagers.
But location-sharing apps have also proven to be useful. Snap Map was used in 2017 to track the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. And Apple’s Find My Friends helped a North Carolina family track down a 17-year-old last year who had been trapped in her car for hours after an off-road accident.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.