Stolen Calgary Police Notebooks Pose Identity Theft Risk

11 June 2015

In an incident that civil liberties experts are calling “disturbing”, the Calgary Police Service failed for over a month to alert the public to the fact that notebooks containing the personal information of up to 400 Calgarians had been stolen from an off-duty officer’s car. The information, which includes names, dates of birth, home addresses and drivers’ license numbers, could put these residents at serious risk of identity theft and fraud.

The initial theft took place on April 4 when the officer’s car was targeted in a prowling incident in a parking lot in the 100 block of Crowfoot Terrace N.W. The Calgary police were quick to report that the officer’s rifle, a military-style Colt C8 semi-automatic, had been stolen, and it has since been recovered.

This was not the case for the five police-issued notebooks that were stolen at the same time. After keeping silent about the missing notebooks for more than a month, the police have finally come forward admitting that they have not been able to find them. Police representatives say they have spent the past month “recreating” the notebooks and will be notifying the 350 to 400 people whose information may be contained in them. They say the information was collected between November 2013 and October 2014, so Calgarians who have had any contact with the police during that time may be at risk.

“What we don’t want is to panic the whole city so we have a good idea of that 350 to 400 people based on how we’ve recreated those notebooks so far and we will reach out to them personally,” Calgary Police spokesperson Kevin Brookwell told CTV News. He said the fact that the department hadn’t alerted the public earlier came down to “an investigative decision”.

However, legal experts on civil rights are saying the decision to hold back this information was questionable. In certain cases, keeping information from the public is necessary for the proper functioning of a police investigation, but it isn’t clear that that was the case in this situation.

“Given the extent and nature of the personal information that was stolen, I find it quite disturbing that affected persons and/or the public were not made aware of the notebook theft earlier. Earlier notice — even in general form — could have allowed people to better protect themselves against the fraud and identity theft police are now warning about,” Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre lawyer Sarah Burton told Metro News Canada.

Human rights expert Brian Seaman added that the circumstances of the theft seemed suspicious, saying, “The concern I have is the original incident of the officer taking an assault rifle home and also having in his possession five notebooks that should have been left in the care and control of whatever division he’s working out of.”

Everyone who may be at risk due to this theft is being encouraged to thoroughly monitor their credit files for any abnormalities. A credit monitoring service like Identity Guard can help you by monitoring for certain activity that may indicate fraud.