Canadian Police Say ‘Porch Pirates’ Have a Right to Privacy

Porch pirates have a right to privacy

Even alleged criminals, including those caught on camera, have presumed innocence and in Canada — well, at least a right to privacy. Police in Quebec have warned residents against posting surveillance footage from home security cameras, like Ring doorbell cameras, on social media.

Residents in the picturesque Montreal West, where many homes have large porches, have become the target of so-called “porch pirates,” especially during the holiday season.

“It’s something we deal with on a daily basis,” Montreal West councilor responsible for public security Lauren Small-Pennefather tells CTV.

“You have people that are following the vehicles, and when they see a parcel that’s dropped off, they then go and take the parcel if nobody comes to the door to retrieve the parcel,” she adds.

While it can be tempting for people to post home surveillance footage online, especially in hopes of identifying individuals (s) who stole their packages, provincial police are pleading with people to keep the footage to themselves.

“You cannot post the images yourself because you have to remember, in Canada, we have a presumption of innocence and posting that picture could be a violation of private life,” says police communications officer Lieutenant Benoit Richard.

“If you get some proof that somebody might have stolen something, call the police, give that proof to the police,” Richard says. “We’ll do the investigation, bring that person to justice and file some charges.”

The rights of a purported criminal are a complex topic everywhere, but especially so in Canada. In 2016, as CBC reported, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) told businessowners not to post photos of alleged shoplifters on social media.

“We always caution people that they could open themselves up to civil liability, in cases where somebody is a youth, for example,” said Constable Geoff Higdon at the time.

Whenever amateur sleuths get involved in trying to investigate or solve a crime, there is a very real risk of misidentifying someone and getting an innocent individual wrapped up in some controversy. Of course, police are not immune to such mistakes, either, but it stands to reason that, restricted by time-tested protocols, law enforcement is at least less likely to err.

Unsurprisingly, some people think it absurd that people caught red-handed on camera committing crimes have a right to privacy.

Those who do commit a privacy violation, as determined by provincial and federal Canadian law, face potential defamation charges.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.