Don't conduct your own investigations, senior RNC officer warns

An inspector with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is urging people to have faith in the force after a couple brought forward their story of a property crime investigation gone wrong.

Tom Warren cringes to think of people going to houses in search of their stolen property.

"I would strongly recommend against that," he told CBC News. "As a person entering another person's residence, you know you're going to put yourself in harm's way."

Warren spoke to CBC News a day after Here and Now aired the story of a couple that sought out and found their stolen items. Despite handing the case to the police, Sarah and Drew Brown were told the RNC couldn't get a warrant.

Warren said when it comes to getting search warrants, police must meet three criteria.

First, they must have reason to believe a crime was committed. Secondly, they must have reason to believe the item they are searching for will provide evidence of the crime. Third, they must have reason to believe the item is at the location they want to search.

A provincial court judge will look at their application and decide if it meets those three items.

Police reviewing handling of case

In the specific case profiled by CBC News, Sarah Brown found a Playstation — one of the items the couple reported as stolen — for sale in her neighbourhood. She responded to the ad, went to the house and secretly recorded video.

A person who accompanied Sarah recorded the audio of the man listing all the things he had for sale. Each item matched what was stolen from the Browns, and they alerted the RNC. 

But police didn't put an officer on the house overnight, and therefore couldn't be sure that the items weren't removed from the property.

"My wife basically cracked the case," Drew Brown said Thursday. "We know exactly where the guy is, we know where our stuff is."

The RNC are now conducting a review of how the investigation was handled.


Warren urged people to trust police when it comes to property crime.

"I would suggest that if you have information, even suspicions of information, that the police be contacted and let the police conduct a thorough investigation into that information," he said.

Meanwhile, police arrested a 30-year-old man in connection with the case on Friday night after executing a warrant at a home in the east end of St. John's.

The man was charged with possession of stolen property, trafficking in stolen property and multiple breaches of court orders and was held to appear in court.

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