Social media takes a bite out of crime on Canada Day in Victoria

Number of alcohol-related infractions down from last year

Victoria police traffic constables Neil Lundin

Though the numbers of people celebrating Canada Day in Victoria were up from 2011, police and transit officials say they responded to fewer incidents involving trouble.

More than 50,000 people crowded into downtown, up by 15,000 from last year. Police, however, had 200 calls for service on July 1, down by 63.

The Victoria Police Department made history on Canada Day as the first police agency in North America to use social media as a crime reporting tool.

During July 1 festivities, an officer monitored all tips and requests for non-emergency help posted on Twitter with the keyword #VicPDHelps, between 4 p.m. and midnight.

Officers responded to 12 Twitter calls for assistance and used information that came in from Twitter users to locate a missing 90-year-old man.

Social media also helped B.C. Transit officials nip trouble in the bud.

In one instance, a Victoria police officer passed on a social media tip to Transit media spokesperson Meribeth Burton indicating that a bus with unruly passengers was heading into Victoria from the Peninsula. Burton sent the Twitter message to B.C. Transit staff, who alerted Saanich police. The bus was stopped and the alcohol-related rowdiness was stamped out.

“We thought there was great co-operation between the police, the city and B.C. Transit,” Burton said.

Victoria police Const. Mike Russell also credited the decrease in Canada Day incidents to this team approach, “… and everyone really pushing for the same thing, to maintain it as a family friendly event.”

B.C. Transit faced fewer alcohol-related reported infractions on its buses this year.

About 100 containers of alcohol were seized and dumped on July 1, in keeping with B.C. Transit’s one-day alcohol ban on buses.

“Last year there were about 300 (seized bottles) at one (bus) stop,” Burton said, adding that 60 people opted not to show authorities the contents of their bags this year.

The region’s Integrated Road Safety Unit also saw a decline in the number of drunk drivers nabbed at checkpoints on July 1.

Three drivers who were checked were issued 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions for impaired driving.

Two people were arrested for drug possession and many more motorists were handed traffic tickets.

“The fact that these numbers are so low is great sign that people are finally getting the message that impaired driving is not tolerated in our communities,” said IRSU acting Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc.

By the numbers:

• Canada Day party-goers: 50,000

• Calls for police service: 200

• People who spent night in police cells: 63

• People arrested for public intoxication: 42

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