News Views: Don’t whip up mob

Think back to the 1800s, when frontier towns hung accused horse thieves.

A photograph of a Maple Ridge homeless man, with the words “Warning Sex Offender,” has shared on Facebook at an alarming rate.

It was passed along more than 800 times before Ridge Meadows RCMP asked the original poster to take it down, as officers have a responsibility to prevent vigilante justice.

A vigilante is someone who takes the law into his or her own hands, trying to punish another person without any legal authority.

Think back to the 1800s, when frontier towns hung accused horse thieves or what happened after photographs of Stanley Cup rioters were posted online.

In this instance, the person who created the photograph told police he was only trying to inform the community about a person he believes is dangerous.

That, however, is the job of police.

RCMP are thankful no one acted on the threats posted under the photograph and say they have an active investigation into allegations of sexual assault. The man labelled as a ‘monster’ may have a criminal record. He also suffers from addiction and mental illness. He could be categorized as one of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a publicly accessible registry of sex offenders –  and for good reason.

Recent studies have cast doubt on whether sex offender notification laws actually work as intended.

Research shows that while police registration discourages sex offender recidivism, public notification actually encourages it.

How so? Perhaps because they have little else to lose.

According to a study published in the Journal of Law and Economics, “convicted sex offenders become more likely to commit crimes when their information is made public because the associated psychological, social, or financial costs make a crime-free life relatively less desirable.”

That poster may be doing more harm than good.


– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News