Canadian Cops Seek To Solve Murder Cases With Online Tips

from the crowdsourcing-investigations dept

Last week, the Toronto Police Homicide Squad launched a new website containing profiles of unsolved murder cases and wanted persons. Each profile contains details of the investigation -- a written synopsis, photos and links to Google maps or even YouTube videos -- and allows visitors to submit tips directly to the police. It serves not only as an appeal for information, but also as a resource for grieving families. Some of the "cold cases" date back decades, and the police are hoping that increased attention on the web (or even from the press on the website launch) might lead to a break in an investigation.

Police have long since used online tools to search for evidence themselves, but we're starting to see them engaging online communities and developing tools and methods to appeal to the public for information through the web. A few years back, a cop from a neighboring city received a lot of press for uploading a surveillance video to YouTube, and now Toronto's Crime Stoppers service has its own YouTube channel and Facebook page. Though, in the surveillance video case, the media coverage of the YouTube angle seemed to help a lot more than the actual video (and comments on some of the Crime Stoppers videos make you wish the comment audio preview was mandatory.) The Toronto police have found a lot of success in solving and preventing crime using these tools, and they recently presented their methods to an Interpol audience.

It's great to see law enforcement embracing the web as a means of two-way communication with the public, though it may take some time before these latest efforts pay off. The new site looks like it could use some more design work, and previous success has involved engaging a largely younger audience on social networks, rather than trying to draw witnesses to a separate site. As long as they continue to experiment, police are bound to find the right methods to make these tools useful.

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  • identicon
    Jesse, 1 Dec 2008 @ 9:06pm

    Maybe this could help boost anonymous tips in cases where gangs are involved. Obviously no one in there right minds wants to help police when that would put their own family at risk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mogilny, 1 Dec 2008 @ 9:25pm

    good idea

    They need to add a reward system as well. Useful tips earn you a free ipod. They recently had a pixel (camera) for pistol ezchange program which took off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2008 @ 9:52am

      Re: good idea

      Whatever happened to doing a good deed for the sake of helping out the community and making is safer.
      If you need to offer an IPOD for a tip then you can just call that a bribe. I wouldn't trust any tip that came from someone expecting payment in return. Just goes to show what kind of greedy society we live in. comments?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Blaise Alleyne (profile), 2 Dec 2008 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: good idea

        Well, some cases have reward money, but that isn't specific to the website. It seems like the web profiles are just advertising existing awards.

        Getting an iPod for a tip on a murder case does seem a bit odd, but offering a reward (like the $50,000 cash for the case above) isn't new.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John P, 2 Dec 2008 @ 11:21am

    I think these is a good idea. However there are numerous videos of police abuse in Toronto on youtube. Why haven't those officers been charged with assault? Toronto Police is a dirty police from the days of ex Toronto Union President Craig Brommel who settled an assault lawsuit out of court for a sizable amount.

    Toronto media has reported about a Toronto Police corruption case a few years ago in which Toronto Police were collecting protection money from legitimate businesses for the mob. They were also forcing transsexual prostitutes to have sex and they were giving the mob the license plate numbers of undercover cops who were tailing them. (Please don't delete this is all verifiable by the numerous stories in the media)

    Toronto Police have to earn the respect & trust of its citizens before the public will help. Regardless of what methods they use to elicit the public's help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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