Tech-savvy crooks are using the latest communications devices to stay one step ahead of cops, prompting calls for tougher laws.
Secure smart phones and encrypted BlackBerrys have allowed gangs and organized crime to engage in illicit business without worrying about messages being intercepted by police because legislation has not kept up with technology.
But Staff Sgt. Dick Nyenhuis, who heads up the electronic surveillance unit for the Calgary police, said a long-stalled law could soon even the playing field.
“What we need is for them to bring in legislation that says before you roll out any new device, they have to put intercept solutions in place,” he said.
“At least give us a fighting chance to stay ahead of these guys.”
The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, Bill C-285, was re-introduced in the House of Commons last month and it would require companies that design mobile phones to allow police to work around security features.
Privacy advocates, meanwhile, have argued the law would give authorities too much power to monitor personal communication.
However, Nyenhuis said the legislation would return the advantage to police back and allow wire taps on some of the worst offenders, a method that is only used when all other investigative avenues have come up short.
Any wire tap would still require the approval of a judge.
BlackBerrys were designed for secure business communications but the criminal element is drawn to anything that’s effective, Nyenhuis said.
Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart, who sits on the Calgary Police Commission, said the legislation would be an important tool in the fight against organized crime.
“It certainly is much harder to wire tap when the younger generation don’t use hard lines but resort to text messaging, BlackBerry pinning and call forwards on their cells,” she said.
“This is also what the escort operators and massage parlours use — all part of organized crime.”