While the motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties) is not “always gets his man,” the Vancouver, British Columbia Police Department (VPD) and the Mounties are aggressively using video to “get” suspects accused of rioting following the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup finals loss in June.
Graphic courtesy of Vancouver, British Columbia Police Department
The riot occurred June 15, 2011 after the Canucks lost the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Championship to the Boston Bruins and thousands of presumably Canucks fans took to the downtown area of Vancouver and turned over cars, smashed windows, looted and committed acts of violence.
When it was over, 140 injuries were reported, one listed as “critical”; four people were stabbed; and 101 arrests were made. Vancouver Chief Constable Jim Chu called it “the largest crime spree in the history of British Columbia.” However, the Vancouver police were not finished because they, and citizens who had not rioted, were outraged by what had occurred. To help police catch rioters, many of those outraged citizens used their cell phones to record as much of the riot as they could.
While no one ever said the rioters were criminal masterminds, in acts of unbelievable stupidity many of the rioters brazenly had photos and video taken of them as they committed crimes, and then posted those images on their social media pages. In many of the photos the rioters display huge smiles; since they provide the evidence, they should also have included the times and locations where constables can pick them up.
With the videos and photos supplied by outraged citizens and the rioters, the police collected more a million photos and up to 1,600 hours of video of the riot. With so many photos and videos to examine, a task force consisting of the VPD, the Mounties and special prosecutors was established to investigate the recordings of lootings, vandalism and arson. But the task force was overwhelmed with video, and it turned to the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA) for help.
LEVA’s members responded and about 40 LEVA forensic video analysts and technicians from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom met for two weeks starting on Sept. 26 at the LEVA Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab at the University of Indianapolis to analyze video, identify suspects and verify criminal acts.
The effort paid off. At least that is what Chu said when he announced the arrest of 60 additional suspects who face 163 charges ranging from assault; breaking and entering; and participating in a riot. Chu also detailed how a suspect—who turned himself in admitting to damaging a single car—was linked to multiple act of vandalism. “Armed with our data from the LEVA lab in Indianapolis, investigators searched for the suspect’s descriptors in the video database and the computer returned numerous ‘hits.’ The computer was able to cull all the processed video in less than 20 minutes, and expose corroborating and new videos of this same suspect engaged in further offenses,” he said.
The arrest of the 60 suspects is only the start of holding suspected rioters accountable, according to Chu. “This is just the beginning as we expect to announce more arrests,” he said. “Every day we receive more tips and our new forensic video lab, funded by the province, produces more evidence,” said Chu, who adds that the “forensic video evidence is a crucial part of the overall riot investigation.”
By the way, the Mounties’ motto is actually Maintiens le droit, French for “Defending the law.”