London now shares Vancouver's shame

Kamloops Daily News
March 24, 2012 01:00 AM

OK, British Columbia, heave a collective sigh of relief.

With memories of last spring's Stanley Cup riots still fresh in our minds -no matter how hard we try to vanquish them -we can take heart. Turns out we're not the national shame we figured we were.

Or, at least, we're not alone in that department.

The community of London, Ont., now shares the dubious distinction with its red-faced counterpart on the West Coast.

After more than 1,000 drunken thugs rampaged through the streets burning police cars and who knows what else on St. Patrick's Day, the Southwestern Ontario community joins Vancouver as a modern-day Canadian city where the combination of booze and hooligans proved to be a disastrous mix.

Police are combing through social media sites and taking calls from the public after last Saturday's ugly riot, which caused an estimated $100,000 in damage and, like the Vancouver debacle, attracted not-so-favourable international attention.

At least 15 people have been arrested and there are likely many more to come, thanks to the likes of Facebook, YouTube and tape from the news media that will soon be obtained by police - if it hasn't been already. The cops say a total of 19 charges have been laid, from unlawful assembly and assaulting a peace officer with a weapon to resisting arrest and mischief.

Police face a number of hurdles when using social media as a basis for their investigations, as was and still is the case in B.C., where nine months after the riots a total of 67 individuals have been charged -and only two convicted. Evidence must be collected and authenticated. Witnesses must be interviewed.

But the riots in Vancouver and London show that social media have become a potent tool in the toolbox for investigators, giving them a head start in identifying suspects and involving the public in ways not even fathomed just a few short years ago.

London police say they've already received more than 150 tips via email, telephone calls and Crime Stoppers. In Vancouver, the phone lines were burning up after residents were repeatedly subjected to riot footage in which the faces of many thugs were clearly visible.

If common sense and simply knowing right from wrong fails to discourage future acts of idiotic hooliganism, maybe the fact that thanks to social media, knowing the eyes and the ears of police are everywhere will.

© Kamloops Daily News

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