Mac’s Uses Social Media to Fight Crime

Through a partnership with Crime Stoppers, criminals will have their photos posted to Facebook and Twitter where viewers can help identify them.

By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

Mac’s Convenience Stores, a division of Alimentation Couche-Tard, is leveraging the strengths of social media in conjunction with local Crime Stopper units to fight crime at its Canadian convenience stores.

When perpetrators commit a crime at a Mac’s convenience store, they can expect their image—pulled from the store’s DVR—to appear on Mac’s crime stoppers Facebook and Twitter pages, where members of the community can help identify them in return for up to a $200 reward.

Mac’s completed a soft launch of the program on Feb. 8, followed by a hard launch in the Thunder Bay, Ontario market, and is preparing for a major launch across the rest of Ontario in April, complete with a media campaign. Already, the company has posted 14 suspect photos, had eight arrests and 11 cases have been cleared.

Taking Charge of Crime Prevention
Launching the social media campaign was something of a natural progression for Mac’s. Sean Sportun, the company’s manager of security and loss prevention, serves as vice chair of Toronto Crime Stoppers. The company had long been using YouTube in conjunction with the Toronto Police to get messages out to the public on robberies in the hopes tips would roll in through Crime Stoppers.

A string of robberies in the Thunder Bay area prompted the company to consider using social media to expedite tips on robbery suspects. Mac’s started the process by speaking with company lawyers to get a legal opinion and guidelines on how to launch the process.

Some of the guidelines included:

• Avoid posting photos of minors.
•Include the tag line that all supects are innocent until proven guilty.
•Include a police report number attached to every image posted.
•Have a crime stopper tip line where people with information can contact Crime Stoppers directly.

“We worked with the Toronto Police, and explained our idea and asked for their help as we built the social media pages, saying, ‘When something happens this is what we plan to do and are you OK with that?’” Sportun noted.

Mac’s worked with the Toronto Police’s social media department to ensure the page’s privacy settings were correct. Sportun advised other c-stores who might be interested in a similar program to begin by getting legal advice on the laws governing each market where the stores operate. Then speak with the local police and the local Crime Stopper unit, as having their buy in is crucial in making the program work.

Once you know the legal requirements for your area, start working to put the necessary precautions in place. “For us, when we have an incident, we post the city where the incident took place, a description of the offender and the nature of the crime. We only post a photo if there is clear video evidence of what happened. It can’t be, ‘I think they might have done that,’—it has to be clearly shown on the video, so if we’re ever challenged we can show the video,” Sportun said.

Mac’s also posts signs on the store doors that clearly alert would-be criminals that if anyone commits a crime on the property, their image will be used on Facebook or Twitter.

“Our initial thought is that someone coming into one of our stores to commit a crime will be deterred once they are made aware that we will attempt to identify them through social media,” Sportun said. “So far, we’ve received really positive feedback from our customers. It seems to be working.”


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