11-Year-Old Boy Stole Family Car to Go Live with a Man He Met on Snapchat

An 11-year-old boy pulled up next to a police cruiser is in Charleston, South Carolina. The surprised officer noticed the young boy was the only person in the car, but the sight of a small boy driving wasn't the last shock in store for the officer. He soon learned the kid stole the car and was using it to meet a man he met on Snapchat.

The officer spotted the boy driving the car at approximately 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The boy told the officer he "took his brother's car and drove to Charleston to live with an unknown male he met on Snapchat," police spokesperson Charles Francis told Charleston's WCSC Live 5 News.

The boy drove from the Simpsonville area of South Carolina, about three hours and 200 miles northwest of Charleston. He became lost after the car's GPS dropped the address of the unknown male the young boy was intending to meet.

"His father's Insignia tablet lost the GPS signal that was directing him to the address in Charleston," Francis said. "When he lost the GPS signal, he lost the address and he was unable to recover it because Snapchat messages disappear or are deleted after they are read."

The child's parents were just about to report the boy missing when Charleston police contacted them. The boy's father picked up the child and police are investigating the boy's tablet to potentially identify the unknown male he communicated with on Snapchat.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Adam Scott Wandt spoke with Boston's WBUR show Here & Now in January 2018 about the rise of child predators using apps like Snapchat.

"Snapchat has become a haven for child predators to be able to both exchange child pornography with each other, and to be able to induce children to send pictures of them to the predator," Wandt told Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson. "And we're also seeing difficulty in law enforcement being able to investigate due to the safeguards Snapchat has in deleting both snaps and 'stories' after certain amounts of time."

Wandt went on to explain the difficulties investigators face in identifying and locating predators using the app to lure children.

"Unless an investigator is able to either get to Snapchat within 24 hours of the snap being exchanged, or unless they're able to pre-identify who the predator is and set up an operation with Snapchat where they're monitoring that offender," Wandt said. He added, "We have children all over the country that are being approached by people they think are children their own age, but really they are predators, they are adults who are significantly older than them, and have fake profiles to try to lure the children to send them photos that could either be nude or of them doing other things."

Wandt advises parents to be more involved with their child's use of apps like Snapchat, to make the effort to understand how the app works and then use that knowledge to monitor their child's behavior on the app.

For Snapchat's part, they state on their website that they "work closely with law enforcement" and encourage users to "contact your local law enforcement immediately" if a user feels a crime has been committed.

"Law enforcement may contact us directly in response, in which case we'll be sure to cooperate and support their processes to their best of our ability," Snapchat's website states.

11-Year-Old Boy Stole Family Car to Go Live with a Man He Met on Snapchat
An 11-year-old boy spotted driving a car alone late at night told the officer who stopped him that he “took his brother’s car and drove to Charleston to live with an unknown male he met on Snapchat.” Getty Images / iStock / bigtunaonline