Toronto

New website asks public for help in finding Canada's most wanted

Toronto police want people to help them catch Canada's most wanted suspects by scrolling through photos on a website, reading case summaries and reporting sightings of fugitives online.

Toronto police using new online tool known as Bolo program to push info about alleged criminals

Maxime Langois of the Bolo Program holds up a T-shirt that will be used to promote the website to the public. (Mary Webster/CBC)

Toronto police want people to help them catch Canada's most wanted suspects by scrolling through photos on a website, reading case summaries and reporting sightings of fugitives online.

Det.-Sgt. Stacy Gallant, of the Toronto police, said police have set up a pilot project with what is known as Bolo program, an online tool that collects information on outstanding arrest warrants and provides channels for people to report sightings of fugitives.

"Bolo" is an acronym for "Be On The Look Out," a common term used in cop dramas on television but also in real life policing, according to Gallant. 
Det.-Sgt. Stacy Gallant, of the Toronto Police Service, says: 'Members of the public are the eye and ears of their communities and often have valuable information that can help capture people that are wanted on these outstanding warrants.' (CBC NEWS)

The program involves a website that displays wanted posters with images of the suspects believed to be on the run for serious crimes, including murder. 

"Members of the public are the eye and ears of their communities and often have valuable information that can help capture people that are wanted on these outstanding warrants," Gallant said.

"It's not fair that these people can continue to live in our communities and not be held to account for their actions." 

The Bolo program is the brainchild of Stephan Crétier, the founder of GardaWorld Security Corporation, a private security company.

For each profile, people looking at the site, either on their computers or smartphones, can watch vignette videos about the suspect and the crimes to which they are alleged to have committed. 
Two examples of wanted posters from the Bolo Program website in collaboration with the Toronto Police Service that asks for the public's help to spot fugitives and report them. (Bolo Program )

There's also information about where the suspects might be hiding and quick links for people to report any sightings. 

A social media blitz of wanted posters

The wanted profiles will be blasted out on social media through promoted Tweets and Facebook posts. 

Maxime Langois, spokesperson for the Stephan Crétier Foundation, said: "We only launch amplification campaigns once we have the full authorization and cooperation from the police service.

"What we do then is take the information that's already publicly available on a case we package it then we boost it to unprecedented levels."

Instead of relying on followers to stumble upon posts, the Bolo Program pays extra for "promoted posts," which will appear on a user's social media platform regardless if he or she follows its social media accounts. 
Visitors to the website are warned against approaching the suspects in person and to instead report any sightings through the appropriate channels. (Bolo Program)

As head of the Toronto police's cold case unit, Gallant hopes the extra social media attention will keep these cases fresh.

"We have our police website that has our most wanted on there for murders. But our problem is reaching the greater masses. We don't have the amount of people that the Bolo program can reach," he said. 

Since 2015, there have been eight outstanding arrest warrants for murder in Toronto and 27 outstanding warrants dating back to 1983.

The site suggests calling the Toronto Police Service non-emergency line, or Crime Stoppers should a tipster want to remain anonymous. 

Pilot project already generating tips

Despite only being in its pilot phase, Gallant said tips have already been trickling in. He called the number promising.

"All we're looking for is that one tip that's going to lead to the arrest of one of these individuals that's wanted," Gallant said.

Right now, there are two suspect profiles for people to review.  

One for Alexander Fountain, wanted for the 2017 shooting death of Samatar Omar Farah, 24, in Scarborough.

The other for Tommy Ngo, wanted for the 2015 stabbing of Russell Sahadeo, 23, in the Jane and Scarlett Road area. 

In the coming weeks, Langois said the Bolo program is working to add several more profiles of accused people wanted for other major crimes, including sexual assault and crimes against children.

Visitors warned against approaching suspects 

There are explicit warnings throughout the website that urge people to report through the given channels and not to approach the accused in person. 

"Warning, Take no action to apprehend this person yourself. This suspect may be armed and dangerous," its reads, in an effort not to promote vigilantism.

With files from Ali Chiasson

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