Canadian police lead the way in fighting crime with social media

Jordana Divon
Daily BrewNovember 21, 2011

As if you needed another reason to think twice about your Twitter output, the president of Crime Stoppers International says Canadian cops are tops when it comes to using social media as a crime-fighting tool.

Michael Gordon-Gibson, a 30-year veteran of London's Scotland Yard, had high praise for the country's law enforcement operatives, and singled out Toronto police constable Scott Mills, known informally as the "Lord Voldemort" of social media, for special praise.

"He's passionate about what he does and he makes a difference," Gordon-Gibson said of Mills, who was recently appointed as CSI's new social media advisor, a volunteer position created to network 1,300 Crime Stoppers organizations worldwide.

As QMI agency reports, Gibson-Gordon was invited as a guest speaker at last week's Ontario Gang Investigators Association's (ONGIA) 10th annual professional development conference.

The three-day conference focused on the growing use of social media outlets — like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — to combat gang violence.

"I think it's fair to say that Canada enjoys a reputation for being enlightened thinkers around the world," he told the crowd, adding that his counterparts at the Canadian branch of Crime Stoppers have used social networking in "very advanced and very effective" ways.

Mills has become somewhat of a pioneer in law enforcement for his fluid ability to incorporate social media into solving crimes.

As one of the Toronto police force's first social media officers, Mills uses Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to appeal for witnesses and track down perpetrators.

He also trains officers on how to use social media strategies to "build bridges through technology" between the police and the greater communities they serve.

Though there are still a number of undefined parameters on how to navigate evolving privacy issues, Gibson-Gordon said he believes social media is crucial when it comes to building relationships with youth.

He pointed out a recent study that said teens are less inclined to feel like they're "snitching" when they pass on a tip using their keyboard.

Recent instances of people identifying rioters in Toronto and Vancouver through video and photos are but one example of this trend.

Mills said he believes social media can be used to thwart everything from schoolyard bullying to terrorist attacks, and hopes his counterparts continue to get on board in using it to fight crime.

"Social media in law enforcement was unheard of even two years ago," he said. "But the more tools we have to reach out and communicate with ourselves and the public, the safer our community will be."