Bolo Toronto

Toronto police are now posting most wanted posters on Instagram

If every person in Toronto spent as much time looking at mugshots of wanted criminals as they did looking at half-naked strangers on their phones... well, we'd likely have a lot more bad guys in jail.

This is the idea behind Bolo — a new police support program that aims to harness the power of technology for the purpose of getting murderers, terrorists, rapists and child sex traffickers off the street.

Toronto Police Service announced on Tuesday that it would begin testing Bolo (short for "be on the lookout") in partnership with the Stephan Crétier Foundation, effective immediately.

A website and several social media accounts have been set up for the pilot project in hopes of "finding Canada's most wanted," including a YouTube channel with short but impactful AMW-style briefs.

The program's creators say they can tailor most-wanted listings using a proprietary engagement engine called Spark.

"Spark tells us what channels to use to make sure that you know about Canada’s most wanted," explains Bolo's website, "so that you contribute to keep your community safe."

You see, officers aren't looking for evidence of crime with this initiative. The people they seek have already been charged.

What they need are citizens to notice and report actively-wanted suspects in their own communities.

"At any given time, there are tens of thousands of outstanding arrest warrants in Canada," reads the Bolo program's website.

"The police typically request the public's assistance for those 'most wanted' cases, counting on tips from the public to help locate the suspects. But in many cases, the public simply isn't getting the message. When was the last time you saw a most wanted notice?"

Touché. Wanted posters aren't the best way of spreading awareness these days.

If a face popped up in your Facebook feed surrounded by bright yellow and the word "WANTED," however, you might pay attention — especially if you recognize it.

The pilot project is focused for now on a few top priority most wanted cases from the Toronto Police Service, with a full launch expected later this summer.

"The people we’ve selected for the Bolo Program currently are those that we believe are still within the GTA or still have strong ties to the GTA," said Detective Sergeant Stacy Gallant during today's press conference.

"Hopefully by picking cases that have a strong connection still to Toronto, we're going to reach the biggest portion of the community that we can through both the digital, social media and through handing out flyers in the community."

As police are constantly telling everybody, members of the public should never approach or try to apprehend a suspect.

"If you see a most wanted individual or have a tip to submit, contact Crime Stoppers, the police, or 911," advises Bolo's website. "Don't forget that citizens are the eyes and ears of the police."

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