Richmond RCMP is encouraging residents to "get their sleuth on" with the launch of their new website, Richmond Help Identify. The webpage features images of persons of interest that the police have been unable to identify.
With the hope of closing some cases, the detachment is appealing to the community to see if they recognize any faces.
"As police officers, we don't know everybody, so we're hoping that members of the public might connect with a particular image or send it to their friends," says Sgt. Gene Hsieh, head of the Crime Reduction Unit at the Richmond detachment. "The idea is to tap into social media and the local desire to solve crime."
The website is updated regularly with new photos from property owners' surveillance footage, and has even expanded to include composite sketches. For each person of interest, the site also lists what type of crime they may have been involved with, the date the image was posted and the gender of the suspect.
If someone recognizes a face on the website, they are encouraged to call or email the detachment with any information.
"One of the most important aspects of police work is to have a lead," says Cpl. Dennis Hwang, a communications officer who helped start the website. "If we have a name, we can go from there. But when you have nothing to go on, you run the case cold."
In the last several years, home surveillance costs have gone down while the quality of video has gone up, a trend Hwang says has inundated his detachment with hundreds of images of criminals. But, police can't always identify the suspect.
"We have a surplus of photos, and before, it was wasted," says Hwang. "This website helps us leverage the public's knowledge and get people engaged to close cases."
Since the website launched in November 2016, the detachment has made three identifications with tips from Richmond residents. The cases are currently under investigation.
"We don't want any case, big or small, to fall through the cracks," says Hsieh. "Even if we only get one identification — that's one case that wouldn't have been solved otherwise."