The Toronto Police Service is enhancing its efforts to capture most-wanted criminals through a partnership with its Homicide and Fugitive Squads and the Stephen Cretier Foundation that runs the BOLO program.
BOLO – Be On The Look Out – is a term that’s commonly used in movies and television shows and also within the law enforcement community.
The BOLO program is a breakthrough initiative leveraging social media and technology to make sure citizens are on the lookout for Canada’s most wanted so they can report sightings and submit tips to help the police arrest these wanted people.
At a news conference at police headquarters on May 1 to announce the pilot project launch, Homicide Cold Case Detective Sergeant Stacy Gallant said there are eight active warrants for murders between 2015 and 2018 and 27 warrants for murders dating back to 1983, with Dennis Melvin Howe being the oldest warrant.
Howe, also known as Michael Burns, Wayne King, Ralph Ferguson and Jim Myers, is wanted for the 1983 murder of nine-year-old Sharin’ Morningstar Keenan. She disappeared from a park on Brunswick Avenue on Jan. 23.
“When a person has committed a crime and they are not arrested at the time of the crime or cannot be immediately located, a warrant for their arrest is usually obtained from the courts,” said Gallant. “Some people who have warrants out for them try to hide and evade arrest, leaving the city or country, changing their name, assuming a new identity. Others hide in plain sight, just hoping not to be caught.”
Gallant said every effort is made to locate the wanted suspects and bring them before the courts to stand trial.
“We do rely on tips from the public to help us locate and capture those who are attempting to evade justice,” he said. “Members of the public are the eyes and ears of their communities and often have valuable information that can help us capture people who have warrants outstanding.”
Detective Sergeant Wayne Banks, of the Fugitive Squad, said the program is a win-win for Toronto Police and the city.
“When they reached out to us, we took the initiative to our Command, who approved it,” he said. “Since then, we have been working with the BOLO program and the Homicide Squad to identify the cases we thought could be used as pilots.”
Maxime Langlois, of the Stephen Cretier Foundation, said the program’s mission is to empower citizens to actively participate in public safety.
“We encourage citizens to be on the lookout for Canada’s most wanted,” he said. “They can report sightings and submit tips to help police arrest them. We do that by acting as an amplifier to the requests of Canadian police services for the public’s assistance on priority most wanted cases. We encourage Canadians to be on the lookout by using innovative tools to reach them at the right place at the right time, That is done to make sure Canadians know about these priority cases and to give them a better chance to play their role in public safety.”
Langlois said the Stephen Cretier Foundation is there to support the police through communication.
“We are 100 per cent complementary to police services and don’t interfere with police activities or investigations,” he added. “We only launch amplification campaigns when we have the full authorization and co-operation of a police service. What we do then is to take the case information that’s already publicly available, we repackage this public information and we boost it to unprecedented levels. We don’t collect tips from the public. We direct the public to the proper channels already identified by police services.”
Langlois thanked the leaders of the Homicide and Fugitive Squads for their support.
“They have all been tremendously helpful in setting up this pilot project,” he noted. “The fact that the Toronto Police Service supports the BOLO program speaks to its dedication and willingness to use innovative tools to keep all Torontonians and Canadians safe.”
There are two Toronto Police Service cases that have been amplified.
Tommy Ngo and Alexander Fountain are wanted for First-Degree murders committed in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Ngo is wanted for the murder of 23-year-old Russell Sahadeo, who died in hospital after he was stabbed in the stomach in Noble Park near Jane St. and Black Creek Blvd.
One of two suspects identified in the incident, 21-year-old Marcus Lee Richards, of Toronto, turned himself into police at 12 Division and was charged with Second-Degree Murder.
Fountain is wanted for the murder of 24-year-old Samatar Farah, who was found dead in the parking lot of townhouse complex in Scarborough.
“We are picking cases currently that we believe these people are actually in the Greater Toronto Area or still have strong ties to the GTA,” said Gallant. “We are reaching out to the communities that may know where they are, where they are hiding, who they are hiding with, to point us in that direction.”
Accompanied by TPS Auxiliary officers, BOLO members were out on street shortly after the launch handing out flyers with the photos of the wanted men.