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Palo Alto police say social media helped them nab alleged child molester

Man who allegedly groped 12-year-old arrested after his photo is shared more than 10,000 times on social media

Police in Palo Alto are attributing the swift arrest of a man who reportedly groped a 12-year-old girl to social media after his photograph was shared more than 10,000 times.

Police said they were trying to identify the man and distributed a surveillance photo of him Monday on their Facebook, Twitter, Nixle, and Nextdoor accounts.

Almost instantly, thousands of people began sharing the photo and news releases about the man.

On Facebook, his photo was shared more than 10,000 times and reached the timelines of more than 870,000 users, according to the police department.

By Tuesday morning, after receiving tips from people who saw his photo on social media and in the news, detectives were able to identify the suspect as Rob Richard Chapman, 47, of San Mateo.

Hours later, Chapman called police and said he was turning himself in.

At about 7:30 p.m., Chapman was arrested on suspicion of four counts of lewd and lascivious acts on the girl, police said. Investigators said Chapman grabbed the girl’s buttocks Sunday as she shopped with her mother at a farmers market at the Stanford Shopping Center.

Police believed Chapman may have been involved in a similar incident on April 4 in Burlingame, Calif., as well as other communities.

Palo Alto police use social media almost daily to share news, crime trends and other information to residents, maintaining “a robust presence” online, officials said.

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