On Watch

The Monsters Among Us

Posted: Oct 16, 2012 3:49 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 16, 2012 3:49 PM ET
I'm not a big fan of horror movies.
 
Since I spend most days researching and reporting on bad guys and their crimes, I don't look to fake evil for entertainment. Still, there are some iconic images from those classic horror movies -- like the one where the angry villagers, armed with pitchforks and flaming torches, converge on the castle to hunt down the monster in their midst.
 
I saw a real life version of that mob scene play out this week in one of the most unlikely of places: the Facebook page of Halifax Regional Police.
 
The police, as is their duty, posted a warning on Monday about a man who's just been released from prison. His name is Ronald James Aucoin. Despite having served his time, Aucoin has been assessed as a high risk to re-offend. And so the warning.
 
Aucoin was convicted last year in Antigonish on two counts of sexual interference. He abused a 15-year-old boy he picked up in his travels as a truck driver.
 
This was not Aucoin's first offence of this nature. In 2003, he was convicted on four counts of sexual touching involving another young boy. For those crimes, he was sentenced to two years of house arrest, which he spent in his grandmother's Dartmouth home. At the time, a lot of people questioned the wisdom of that sentence. And they protested outside the house. They're probably questioning it even more now, given that he went on to offend again.
 
In just a couple of hours after Halifax police posted the warning about Aucoin on their Facebook page, there were more than 50 comments. Twenty-four hours later, there were triple that number. And the comments are angry.
 
The police moderate their social media sites; they pull down the most offensive or threatening comments. But in a quick reading, I was able to find calls for castration, exile to an island or life in prison.
 
I must confess, that as the father of two young girls, part of me is tempted to heat the tar, grab the feathers and join the angry mob. After all, you could say that the system has failed -- twice -- when it comes to Ronald Aucoin, and two boys have suffered what could be irreparable harm as a result.
 
But at the same time, the system is also working. Corrections Canada, the Parole Board of Canada and finally Halifax Regional Police all realized they have a problem with Aucoin. 
 
They cannot keep him in prison any longer; he's reached his statutory release date. But in its final review prior to his release, the Parole Board noted that "psychological testing places you [Aucoin] in the high risk category relative to other similar male sexual offenders for sexual recidivism."
 
So, the Parole Board imposed conditions on Aucoin, including that he stay away from anyone under the age of 16. (You can read the Parole Board of Canada documents for yourself.)
 
When Halifax police were informed of Aucoin's imminent release, they issued their public warning. 
 
After weighing the merits of the warning and the facts behind it, CBC News decided to put the warning out there as well.
 
The rest is up to you. Not with pitchforks and torches. Just vigilance.

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About the Author

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 30 years in Atlantic Canada, covering everything from princes to politicians to prostitutes, and a whole lot of stuff in between. These days, he focusses on stories involving crime and public safety.

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