Back of the Book
Hats off to Calgary’s Online Stolen Property team
By Sean Gregson
I want to draw attention to a Calgary Police pilot project started in May 2017 to combat the increase we were seeing in stolen property being fenced through online companies such as Kijiji, Facebook and LetGo. Whereas traditional stolen property was usually fenced through pawnshops, technology has now provided the means for quickly dispersing stolen property through legitimate websites with relative anonymity.
By Sean Gregson
Bearing this increasing trend in mind, and as we didn’t have a standard approach to these types of investigations, the Online Stolen Property team was created to react quickly to stolen property identified online.
Since May the team has grown from two staff members to a six-person team, run by Sgt. Lee Dunbar. The OSP team helps support the frontline members by focusing on verification of the property, a quick response, recovery and arrests.
This recent letter from a member of the public to OSP team member Const. Jordens speaks to the great work being done:
My son worked most of the summer to earn the money for a new MacBook Pro and AirPods for school. Both were stolen at school yesterday and he was devastated by the loss. He filed a police report yesterday afternoon and scoured Kijiji last night, looking for his laptop. He found it listed for sale and convinced the “seller” to send him a photograph where the serial number was visible, thus proving it was his laptop.
Early this morning, my wife called Calgary Police and within an hour we had an officer at our doorstep. We provided her with all the relevant ownership information, the “seller” communication and she assured us there was a new unit within Calgary Police that was excellent at working with Internet crimes.
Almost immediately upon her departure, we were contacted by Const. Jordens, who had a “buy” scheduled with the “seller” of my son’s items within a couple of hours. Constables Jordens and Marjerrison secured his laptop and AirPods, and took several individuals into custody in the process.
In my prior life, before moving back to Canada, I was a captain in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Advisory Posse in Arizona. We were involved in fundraising for the families of fallen and injured officers. In that role, I was exposed to a variety of operating units and I will tell you from that experience (and from a victim’s perspective in this case), Calgary’s OSP is an amazing group of people that are highly effective.
Thirty-six hours after the theft, we had our stolen items returned and a strong sense of faith in the Calgary Police Service. To top it off, they are really great people who truly care. This is the kind of function that has a direct and positive impact on public perception of the service. I am sure they make quite a large number of recoveries for the citizens of Calgary due to these individuals’ drive and effectiveness.
I want to thank you for having this unit and encourage you to continue providing this service.
– R. Leighton Fisk
The above letter is one of many this team has received, based on their quick response (these are time sensitive investigations after all) and commitment.
OSP members receive the CPS Level 200 Online Investigators Course, allowing them to research the property and communicate covertly with the sellers online, while still abiding by policy.
The OSP team has assisted with more than 268 calls for service since its inception and recovered upwards of $474,000 worth of stolen property. Additionally, more than 190 charges have been laid and 20 plus search warrants executed.
We have developed standard responses to ensure excellence in service and I look forward to continuing to see this type of online investigative work.
Sean Gregson is Calgary Police Service’s Acting Staff Sergeant and a 19-year member of CPS. He has worked in organized crime and homicide, and currently oversees the Centralized Break & Enter, District Operational as well as the OSP teams.