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Police pursue fugitives on Facebook

Assumed comforting anonymity of the Internet may be working againstdodgy social networkers, as civic police use new technology-fueledtools to pad their tracking arsenal.

Assumed comforting anonymity of the Internet may be working against dodgy social networkers, as civic police use new technology-fueled tools to pad their tracking arsenal.

Its profile may be the only faceless one on a social networking site full of faces from around the globe. With more than 1,000 summons and subpoenas waiting to land in the hands of sought-after citizens, Edmonton police are using Facebook to prove few are untraceable.

“People actively evade us, and know we’re looking for them,” said community peace officer Ryan Kelly. “They’ll make every effort to not be home, move, quit their job and become invisible to police.”

The Facebook profile “EPS Documents” was created in October. It bears no description, comments or friends, simply stamped by a police crest. Those contacted by the officers behind the glow of their computer screens, may have unknowingly revealed enough to make hiding a futile effort.

“People think the best way to deal with something is pretend it never happened,” Kelly said, adding trials can be delayed for years if witnesses and the accused can’t be served.

Employing the power of social networking sites is a relatively new technique for local officers. Police forces around the country are slowly catching on to how online mediums can be used to their advantage, through sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Grant MacEwan criminologist Bill Pitt applauds the innovation by document services staff, who are working under capacity and stretched thin.

“There’s not enough manpower or hours in the day,” he said. “That manifests itself in very creative thinking — when you’re under the gun, you wilt, or answer the call.”

The unit itself is one of a handful that exist in the country, due to an overwhelming number of witnesses and accused criminals to track.

Kelly said the site makes his job easier.

“People don’t just disappear,” he said.

 
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