June 18th, 2024

LPS modifying strategy for finding wanted individuals


By Tim Kalinowski on July 3, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge Police Service will continue to use social media to seek out the public’s help in finding wanted individuals, but will no longer have a regular Wanted Wednesday feature.
Insp. Leon Borbandy of the LPS told Lethbridge Police Commission members on Wednesday that the use of social media has helped the LPS find wanted individuals they could not find in any other way.
“Consideration is given to the seriousness of the offence,” Borbandy reported to commissioners about the criteria used in determining whether or not to post a suspect’s image on social media, “the risk to the public, the number of outstanding warrants or charges to the person, the continuation of the offence whether on release or otherwise, breach of release conditions, efforts made to avoid arrest, and the lack of success of other investigative techniques.”
Borbandy explained that despite the name the Wanted Wednesday feature is not a weekly feature, and has only been used as needed. In 2019 there were only 32 Wanted Wednesday posts, explained Borbandy, in 2020 only 29 posts, and in 2021 to date only 16 posts.
Despite the limited use of the posts, he said, they have had a success rate of about 25 per cent in helping to apprehend the individuals the LPS is seeking.
In 2019, Borbandy said, out of those 32 posts two individuals turned themselves in and seven were arrested based on tips received from the public. In 2020, of those 29 posts, six individuals turned themselves in and four were arrested. In 2021 so far out of the 16 posts two individuals have turned themselves in.
While releasing the images and names of specific wanted individuals on social media has been effective from the police service’s point-of-view, Borbandy acknowledged the name “Wanted Wednesday,” which implies a regular, weekly feature, was inaccurate. Thus, the police service will cease using the name.
“We have reviewed the practice of Wanted Wednesday because the terminology is misleading in that it suggests we are obligated to do it every Wednesday, and the fact that we are not doing it every Wednesday,” he said. “We are going to start releasing on an ad hoc basis as needed. It is still a viable technique to try to apprehend some of the most prolific offenders.”
Commissioner Belinda Crowson acknowledged the decision was an operational matter for the LPS itself to consider, but hoped the police service would at least consult with local stakeholders on the issue.
“I am going to make a suggestion that as you create an Indigenous elders group and other groups in the community to run these past, and I would recommend is running this passed them,” she said. “I think these are some of the things we need to have continued conversations with the community about.”
Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh responded that, although the LPS was open to making changes to better deliver the program, using social media to seek wanted criminals was in standard usage by almost every police force operating in Alberta today.
“I know there are some who found the name to be offensive, and the remarks on certain individuals, but we are not just putting people from the Indigenous community names or from any communities within our community,” he stated. “We are putting the names of people who are charged with committing serious crimes. This is public knowledge, and they pose a risk to the community.”
Commissioner Doug Thornton encouraged Mehdizadeh to at least meet with the petition’s organizer, Paul Butler, to present him with the same facts the commission has received, and to explain the changes made to meet some of the petitioners’ concerns.
“If one looks over the wording of the petition itself, it is not in complete parallel with the report we have received today,” he said. “I think if we don’t get back to the author of that petition, and the other signatories, we could appear to be (saying), ‘Well, we aren’t doing nothing about it. Too bad, so sad.’ But there has been changes made, and I would like us to somehow communicate with the authors of that petition to help smooth the waters going forward.”
Mehdizadeh confirmed he would do that.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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