For the most part, the gender-flipping Snapchat filter has been used for the entertainment of everyone on the internet interested in seeing how they look with long hair or a beard, and little else. But a college student who was hoping to catch sex predators ended up using the app's feature to do just that. As reported by NBC News, 20-year-old from San Francisco used his gender-swapped photos to expose a police officer looking for a hookup with a 16-year-old girl.
The college student Ethan, who declined to give his last name to reporters for fear of repercussions, told a local NBC affiliate that he decided to create an account posing as a young girl after a friend disclosed her own experience of being molested as a young girl. He said that he didn't intend to specifically catch a police officer with his fake account — just any pedophiles who were seeking out underage girls.
“I was just looking to get someone. He just happened to be a cop,” Ethan told NBC.
He created a profile for "Esther" a 19-year-old on Tinder. He matched with Robert Davies, a 40-year-old police officer at the San Mateo Police Department. Davies messaged "Esther," and Ethan decided to go forward with his plan.
"I believe he messaged me, 'Are you down to have some fun tonight?' and I decided to take advantage of it," Ethan told NBC.
Ethan moved the conversation to Kik, an instant messaging app, where he told Davies that Esther was actually 16 years old. He asked whether or not that bothered Davies, who responded that it didn't, according to screenshots later obtained by law enforcement.
"We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit," Ethan explained.
They continued to message for more than 12 hours, where they continued to discuss Esther's age, and exchange sexually explicit texts.
Ethan screenshot all the messages, and sent them to Crime Stoppers. The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) then used the tip to arrest Davies on June 6, for contacting a minor with the intent to commit a felony. According to a press release from the department following an investigation, "detectives confirmed Davies' identity and served search warrants on electronic devices, mobile applications, and on Davies' residence."
The SJPD's press release on Davies arrest detailed that he asked Ethan, who he thought was a young girl named Esther, "to switch to Snapchat where they also discussed her being 16 years old, and chatted about engaging in sexual activity."
After Davies' arrest, he was placed on paid administrative leave by the San Mateo Police Department.
"This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole," San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement regarding the incident. "As San Mateo police officers, we have sworn an oath to serve and protect our communities. I can assure you that we remain steadfast to this commitment to serving our community with professionalism, integrity, and excellence."