Provinces gear up for Web-based criminal profiles

Federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers meeting at this week’s conference in Newfoundland will discuss using the Web to publish information on high risk offenders, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice Canada confirmed Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Minister of the Attorney General‘s office in Ontario also said that it expects the topic of such a Web site will be raised at the meeting but declined further comment: “We’re going to defer commenting on it until it is raised at that meeting,” said Brendan Crawley, senior coordinator, media relation communications branch for the Attorney General’s Office.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell will be one of the ministers speaking on the subject sometime this week along with his counterparts in Alberta and Manitoba. A spokesperson from Quennell’s office said the minister talked about his department developing a Web site similar to those in Alberta and Manitoba to local reporters two to three weeks ago, but has yet to release more specific details on the project. According to reports, the site would allow the public to track ex-cons in their communities.

Debbie McEwen, director of communications for Saskatchewan Justice on Tuesday said that the minister will make a formal announcement in the next month. She added that the Web site will be developed in-house.

Alberta was the first province to launch this type of Web site in May 2002 under the “Crime Prevention” section of the Alberta Solicitor General Web site. The Web pages include a physical description and photograph of the offender, information about the offences they have committed, the general area in which they offender resides and a contact name at the appropriate police service. The Web site contains only information already made public.

Manitoba followed Alberta in April 2003 with the launch of its Web site to notify Manitobans of high-risk sex offenders. The Web site can be accessed through the Manitoba Justice Web site.

Murray Grismer, acting inspector of the executive office at the Saskatoon Police Service said the success of the Amber Alert system in the Peter Whitmore case this summer (Whitmore allegedly kidnapped a 10-year-old boy in Saskatchewan while on the run with a teen he had allegedly taken in Manitoba) shows the value of these tools in aiding law enforcement officials.

“We saw that with all kinds of people in the province on the lookout for this offender they were able to ultimately find him in fairly short order and thereby prevent something greater happening than what did happen,” said Grismer.

Grismer went on to say that having a Web site like Alberta’s and Manitoba’s will give Saskatchewan citizens a permanent source to find information on high risk offenders as opposed to other outlets such as radio, television and print.

“Anything that we can do to help protect the public against high risk offenders is always a positive step forward,” he said.

Likewise, Sgt. Kelly Dennison of the Winnipeg Police Service said a Web site is another avenue to notify the public.

“The best aspect of it is if you weren’t aware of the news of the day, it’s available to you days later,” he said. “You can always go and check. That information is always there and available.”

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