on the Ratline
that “gotta love ’em” civilian volunteer phoneline action agency with 52
“dial-a-betrayal” offices across Ontario and many more across the nation,
has been hauled into court to explain how they verify anonymous phone tips
before turning them over to the police.
A superior court judge presiding over the trial of accused hydroponic pot
farmers has ordered Crimestoppers Inc to share their snitchline goodies
with defence lawyers, and made the most unusual move of having that information
subject to “judicial editing.” In short, this means the identity of the
informer will be carefully blotted out, but the rest of the text will be
a free for all in the courts, and the internal mechanics of their ratline
will be glimpsed by its victims for the first time.
Crimestoppers guarantees anonymity to all telerats and offers cash rewards
for the tip of the week that results in arrest and conviction. However,
due to the sneakiness of their style, they rarely call back to verify information
before sending it on to the police, and almost never make good on their
promises of fast cash to hotline hopefuls hungry for a few blood-stained
bucks and ego triumph.
As sophisticated cloaking devices all but completely conceal the whereabouts
and activities of lightbulb gardeners, the police face an increasingly
difficult task in detecting them. However, Crimestoppers is able to harness
an army of angry ex-spouses, greedy landlords and various sundry cranks,
coaxing their base vendettas into the light of day, and milking these petty
snits and misplaced rages for the benefit of the law enforcement wagons
roaming the streets.
Police departments are glad to follow up on Crimestoppers tips, as they
are then able to bypass boring surveillance and otherwise fruitless undercover
work, and sidestep legal niceties such as due process of law and the right
of the accused to face their accuser in court.
Defence lawyers for the grow room attendants have asked for the court to
subpoena Crimestopper telephone transcripts to be introduced as evidence.
Judge McKinnon of the Ontario Superior Court approved this unusual request
and said he was satisfied the information was relevant and that he was
not dealing with a “defence fishing expedition.”
Crimestoppers provided two tips to police that were cited in documents
and to obtain search warrants that busted the grow rooms. One tip described
the growing operation. The follow-up tip, filed six weeks later, provided
the street address.
Whether any of this will stop the police from calling Crimestoppers to
tip themselves off is anyone’s guess.
Dr Alexander Sumach