The trouble with solving crime on facebook

By Andru McCracken


Valemount was on high alert on Wednesday and Thursday last week when a man suffering a mental illness attempted to steal a car after he burgled homes for two weeks straight in Valemount, stole a car in McBride only to be arrested in Bonnyville, while fleeing Kamloops where he was suspected of armed robbery, assault, unlawful confinement. A busy criminal.

But according to the Rocky Mountain Goat’s confidential law enforcement informant code-named Detective Robin Banks, the tsunami of crime was bigger in fiction than in fact.

Synthesizing a crime wave
In reality, a man was trapped in Valemount when he was abandoned by friends on a road trip through the community. In the midst of a mental health crisis he attempted to steal a vehicle at the PetroCan.

The would-be auto thief was eventually transported out of town a few hours after the incident – in the back of an ambulance. Banks said the man may or may not face charges of grand theft auto but he was definitely guilty of trying to leave Valemount.

Banks said vague descriptions of the man made it easy to link the case to another man who had been breaking into residences and garages on 8th place for some time. In a legitimate police report, police said that a local man was responsible for a spate of property crimes over the past two weeks, not a criminal mastermind. He has since been arrested, released and given a curfew. Charges are pending as police build their case.

Denizens of Facebook wondered whether the culprit of the now far reaching crime spree wasn’t Robert Rennie, wanted on an allegation of armed robbery, assault and unlawful confinement by Kamloops RCMP.

But according to our insider, that was something completely different and Rennie wasn’t known to have been in the area.

Valemount’s Facebook hive mind melded about ‘four or five different people’ into one, presenting a clear and present danger to the town.

“These have combined in the past couple days and it has lit up the internet. Now there is a crime wave, based on Facebook,” said our informant, in a gravelly voice as he puffed a cheap cigar in silhouette of the setting sun in a Valemount parkade.

He has suggestions for Facebook’s crime fighters.

“If you see somebody suspicious, get descriptions of vehicles, obtain a license plate if possible and phone the detachment right away,” he said. “Maybe we can locate the person, maybe we can’t. Maybe they have a reason for being where they are. If we don’t hear about it we can’t follow up.”

Most of the tips are not called into police. Officers do not routinely patrol Facebook while on duty.

Axing for trouble
While some residents hope police will shoot first and ask questions later to rid ourselves of the scumbags who may or may not have been guilty of anything but getting stuck in a podunk town, could it be that residents need to band together to fix OUR OWN systemic problem?

Banks said serious problems arise because of the lack of a daily bus service (BC Bus North only runs twice a week and only connects Valemount to the northwest, to Prince George).

Options for leaving town in a timely way include renting a U-haul truck, or hiring a pilot car. Both are incredibly expensive.
It’s not hard to imagine the kind of hijinx that desperate stranded people might get up to, said Banks.

Could it be that part of Valemount’s crime doesn’t come from a coordinated attack of lawless criminals on the run but is rooted instead in a systemic transportation problem?

Our informant thanked residents for their offer of mob justice, but said calls to the police would be preferred, and if you do live in mortal fear of being robbed? Lock up your stuff and take the keys out of your car.

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