Alberta police getting help online taking criminals off the streets

Terry Lyle was fed up with people breaking into the central Alberta gas plant where he works. After the fourth time, he got pictures and video from security cameras and shared them on Facebook. The post helped Red Deer RCMP get their man.

Facebook 'em, Danno!: Social media trending as crime-fighting tool for RCMP

This security camera image posted to Facebook shows a man using a gas-powered saw to break into a central Alberta gas plant. (Facebook)

Terry Lyle was fed up with people breaking into the central Alberta gas plant where he works.

Terry Lyle turned to Facebook after the gas plant where he works was broken into for the fourth time. (Terry Lyle)

During each of the first three break-ins, thieves stole gas fittings and other items worth about $10,000. The plant's insurance deductible is $10,000, so no claims were filed.

The fourth time, in late April, the Cansearch Resources Ltd. plant was hit by a suspect on a crime spree.

"He actually stole two Husqvarna chop saws, gas powered chop saws, from CP Rail in Lacombe the weekend prior," Lyle said. "He used one of those to cut the gate open at my facility."   

Lyle got pictures and video from security cameras. But instead of just turning them over to police, he decided to also share them on Facebook.

"Posted up on that Alberta stolen vehicle web page, and within hours we had multiple hits," said Lyle. "I think it was within a week of him breaking in, or 10 days, they caught him in Red Deer, cornered him at a store in Village Mall, from what I understand." 
Lyle's original post about the break-in at the gas plant helped lead to an arrest. (Facebook)

RCMP said in a news release they located the suspect thanks to a tip from someone who saw the Facebook post.
The 24-year-old man who was arrested was driving a stolen truck. He tried to flee and fought the officers who tried to take him into custody, injuring one of them.

The man was caught with methamphetamine and equipment that had been stolen from a Red Deer RCMP cruiser.

It wasn't the first time Facebook has helped take a criminal off the streets, said Red Deer RCMP Cpl. Karyn Kay, 

"Social media has been a huge help for us in identifying suspects caught on camera and committing crimes," Kay said.

The RCMP say Facebook pages like this one help solve crimes. (Facebook)

The two main Facebook pages where the tips come from are "Central Alberta's Stolen Vehicles and Property Theft" and "RED DEER STOLEN VEHICLES," which have nearly 8,000 members each and see dozens of new posts every day.

"People are using social media and they're using it proactively, and they're using it for positive purposes to help and support their community," said Kay.

"For us, it's amazing. We're so lucky that they do have such a Facebook site and our citizens are engaged to look at it. We can't do it alone, we rely on the public."

Lyle was impressed with how quickly his post generated tips from people who had spotted the suspect and the stolen truck he was driving.

"Everybody was communicating, everybody was getting the information to where it needed to go," he said. "And absolutely it helped out with the arrest. It was a group effort."

This post on central Alberta's Stolen Vehicles and Property Theft page told members that an arrest had been made. (Facebook)

Lyle and many other people are now frequenting the page to keep an eye out for those suspected of crimes in the area.

"Just about everybody I know is doing it right now, because it's actually working," he said. "I was blown away with the response on it, how fast it was. I was actually quite surprised that the guy was arrested a week away."

His feelings of frustration about the break-ins quickly turned to satisfaction upon hearing of the arrest.

"Absolutely, not to mention my bosses in head office are incredibly pleased that the person was caught," said Lyle, who encourages others to do what he did.

"If you do have something stolen, throw it on social media. Because it works."