Calgary Police: One Constable, 20 Years of Sex Crimes

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Calgary Police: One Constable, 20 Years of Sex Crimes

A recent article in the Calgary Sun put a rather positive spin on a new effort by the Calgary Police that I find dubious, at best.

Given a backlog of sex crime cases stretching back two decades, with estimates that there are about 200 unsolved cases per year (that's a total of 4,000 cases, for those keeping track at home), the Calgary Police now have a program underway designed to pick up these "cold" cases and see what today's technology can do with yesterday's evidence. And with such a significant backlog, they've decided to assign exactly one constable to investigate these cases.

Calgary Police Priorities in Defending Calgary

Don't misunderstand me: I am all for the Calgary Police returning to old cases in an attempt to bring victims closure, and to serve justice on those who can actually be proved to have committed crimes with evidence that is still on file. While my experience as a criminal defence lawyer here in Calgary has taught me that older evidence and especially older witness testimony is less reliable and more prone to unreliable manipulation than evidence more recently collected and established, I am not automatically opposed to bringing up older evidence in an attempt to bring closure to years-old criminal charges.

What really bothers me about this story is the fact that one constable has been assigned to look over thousands of potentially serious criminal cases—violent crimes that actually make Calgary a less safe city—when less than two months ago we were regaled with a story about a month-long sting operation involving hundreds of police hours all geared towards "detecting" petty thefts by creating enticing scenarios for low-level theives (a practice some might find dangerously close to entrapment).

In other words, despite the Sun's sunny disposition towards this cold-case effort by the cops, the Calgary Police are willing to devote far more resources to more visible and public acts that don't really harm Calgary all that much—the theft of bicycles and strollers and low-level drug possession crimes—than they are to cleaning up long-forgotten cases that might bring the victims of violent sex crimes a greater sense of closure, and that have a far greater likelihood of identifying truly dangerous criminals and removing them from the streets.

Petty crimes should be investigated, no doubt, but surely sex crimes that have been open for twenty years deserve a little more attention, especially if there's actually hope that existing evidence can yield better results with newer technology. Calgary Police ought to focus on actually protecting and serving the people of Calgary, not just getting good press for putting on a good show.

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