The RCMP has launched an online crime map for many of its jurisdictions in Alberta, listing data for offences such as mischief, car theft and property crimes.
The tool aims to increase transparency about RCMP work, and dispel rumours that can circulate on neighbourhood Facebook pages.
"It's just a better way of providing people with accurate information, because what's on social media is often no different than what you'd hear on coffee row or in the rumour mill," said Insp. Mike Lokken, the commander for the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Enoch detachment.
"A lot of the information on [social media] is not vetted, it's not sourced. Anybody has the ability to enter information."
Speaking on CBC's Radio Active, he gave the example of a posting on a Spruce Grove Facebook page that stated there had been nine car thefts in one night. RCMP had received reports of just one car theft.
'Heard it was true'
Officers called the person who posted the information, and discovered the person had simply "heard it was true."
The crime maps will provide data for the past two weeks. RCMP are already posting data for many jurisdictions, such as St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Westlock.
Individual towns and cities will have crime maps posted to their municipal websites. Both Devon and St. Albert have links to crime maps on their websites. Anyone who clicks on the map can find crime data for much of the province.
Data is sent from individual detachments across the province, Lokken said.
Property crimes are among the public's major concerns. Lokken hopes the crime maps will help people understand some of the data that police are working with — and how it can be used.
"There's a misconception that the police won't do anything with your information or they're too busy to do anything with it," he said.
"But the crime map is a small indication of some of the analytical work we do in processing who is hurting us the most, where they're hurting us and directing our resources."