Saskatoon Crime Stoppers is bringing grainy surveillance images to life, by putting words into the suspects’ mouths for a new social media segment.
“The Un-usual Talking Suspects” segment was first posted to Saskatoon Crime Stoppers Facebook page on Jan. 7, featuring two suspects who allegedly broke into an apartment building and stole numerous items.
“The idea was to come up with something that we could share to keep the public engaged,” explained Saskatoon police Cst. Ryan Ehalt.
After the original video garnered positive feedback online, a second video was posted on Thursday.
“When you’re doing that as a strategy, if you’re focusing on the face, even if it’s with a very unclear suspect photo, if we draw the right audience because of the uniqueness of it. There’s always that possibility that we can identify that person.”
“By doing it in this unique way, it’s not something people are just going to scroll through. They’re going to take the time, they’re going to look, they’re going to observe and it’s a possibility we can solve that file,” said Ehalt.
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There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the videos which reads, “The suspect(s) featured clearly are NOT ‘talking.'”
“The Crime Stoppers program is putting words into the suspect’s mouth. We have a disclaimer about that, so clearly you can’t mistake that for actual video surveillance,” said Ehalt.
“By mocking accused persons or making fun of an accused person for the purposes of getting more clicks, it may be a good technique to get police intelligence and it could also have more people share it, which I think is probably the idea behind it,” said defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle.
Pfefferle called the video segment a calculated decision by police.
“It could also potentially lead though, to accused persons alleging that they haven’t been treated fairly or in certain circumstance, saying that their right to a fair trial has been prejudiced in some way, notwithstanding the fact that there is a disclaimer,” said Pfefferle.
Ehalt said Crime Stoppers will only post a suspect if a waiver has been signed by the complainant and there is a request by police.
In 2018, the Saskatoon Crime Stoppers Facebook page shared just over 360 posts, reaching more than 12.48-million people.
Currently, the page has more 31,000 followers, making it the number one followed Crime Stopper Facebook page in North America and one of the most followed in the world.
Ehalt said the Facebook page has grown from 15,000 followers at the start of 2018.
“A lot of the things we’re doing currently on our page has never been done before and that’s why we draw the attention,” said Ehalt.