Toronto police launch new homicide cold case website to ‘leverage social media’
TORONTO — Toronto police have launched a new website to garner more help from the public in solving the city’s homicide cold cases, in an effort to embrace technology and “leverage social media” in the fight against a recent spike in violent crime in the city.
Chief Mark Saunders unveiled the new crime fighting tool Wednesday, days after former deputy police chief Peter Sloly stepped down following comments criticizing the force, its billion-dollar budget and what he called its slow embrace of technology and social media.
“This is an opportunity to leverage social media. Globalization has made the world a much smaller place. Access to all corners of the world is a much easier thing now and this is a tool, this is a driver that makes it so much more possible for that reach out all around the world,” said Saunders.
“So we’re hoping that this will be the driver that will assist in solving some of these cases.”
In comments last month, Sloly said the legitimacy and public trust of policing in Toronto — as elsewhere in North America — was at a “low point” and approaching crisis.
He also said a better embrace of technology would let the force operate with hundreds of fewer officers and shave tens of millions from its billion-dollar total.
That sparked critics to accuse Sloly of speaking out of line, with the Toronto Police Association union calling for Sloly to be investigated for insubordination.
Saunders and police board chair Andy Pringle sent city councillors a letter last week attempting to deflect criticism of the controversial 2016 budget and justify increases that would push it over the billion-dollar mark for the first time.
They argues that greater funding was needed to combat growing criminal threats, including a recent spike in shootings and stabbings in the city.
“We have seen an increase in violent crime in recent months and are also dealing with an ever-changing and increasing level of cybercrime, victimization and national security threats,” the letter stated.
Police said in a release that the new website would allow users to search for information on investigations dating back as far as 1959, while the public would also be able to find contact information on investigators for each case.
Saunders said the force had taken the time to “re-tool the web page to make it more interactive and informative” and is encouraging the public to go to the website and “use social media to spread the word on the individual cases and people wanted for murder.”
Police said clearance rates for homicides in Toronto vary year by year but average at about 80 per cent from 1921 until today.
In December, Toronto police credited social media for its role in helping to make an arrest in a cold case dating back to 2012.
Homicide investigators would be releasing short video clips through the website and social media in hopes of stimulating information on cold cases.
Three video appeals were released today:
With files from Will Campbell, Steve Morales and David Shum
© 2016 Shaw Media