Social media plays an integral part in how communities, families, and individuals communicate with each other today. Airdrie is no exception to this rule, and while there are scores of community pages on a whole host of social media platforms that help residents of the city stay informed, there is also a worrying trend when it comes to posting about alleged crimes that occur in the city.

Those who may be members of local neighbourhood crime watch groups may be under the impression that the city is overrun with petty crime, especially break-ins into vehicles. However, social media postings don't always translate to police reports being filed.

"There are numerous occurrences where the Airdrie RCMP become aware of alleged crimes through social media without complaints being made to the detachment," wrote Corporal James McConnell, the Airdrie Media Relations Officer. "The RCMP rely on the public reporting crimes to coordinate responses and conduct investigations. We cannot investigate or coordinate patrols without information from the public."

He noted that social media does appear to be having an amplifying effect on the public’s perception and that failing to report crimes. If one were to look at the actual reports filed, according to the RCMP's statistics, from January to March of 2022 there were:

  • Four break & enters reported
  • 38 'other' thefts under $5000 reported
  • 35 thefts were reported (under $5000) which were shoplifting reports
  • 57 thefts from motor vehicles were reported

In comparison, in all of 2021 there were:

  • 17 break & enter reported
  • 141 'other' thefts under $5000 reported
  • 109 hefts were reported (under $5000) which were shoplifting reports
  • 172 thefts from motor vehicles were reported

Ideally, anyone who has been the victim of an alleged crime should first report it to the police before posting anything on social media, partly because it may inadvertently disclose potentially sensitive evidence, which then further hampers police work. 

"As with any social media platform, content is submitted by users and not monitored. This allows for potentially inaccurate information to be distributed. Once posted to Facebook perpetrators may also have access to the video. This potentially allows them to take steps to discard evidence and take steps to avoid the detection of future crimes."

It is also important to note that depending on the material posted, social media postings can compromise investigations and prosecutions.

However, this doesn't mean that social media is all malevolent. According to him, the recent bear sighing in the community of Sagewood illustrated that social media postings are a useful tool for notifying the community of issues.

Corporal McConnell wrote that in addition to potentially compromising investigations, failing to make a police report can also result in people not being charged.

"Police will only charge a person if the evidence supports a charge. For example, if there was only one reported break-in, when in fact there was more the person would only be charged with the reported break-in."

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