QR codes used in manhunt

Vancouver police are using a hightech wanted poster to drum up new leads in the hunt for a serial sex attacker who targets young women after they leave the downtown nightclub district.

Police installed 300 posters with QR (quick response) codes Monday on the backs of toilet-stall doors in both men’s and women’s washrooms in targeted bars on Granville Street, according to Sgt. Matt Clarke of the sex crimes unit.

It’s the first time the unit has used the new technology to help it generate more tips for its investigation.

The square bar codes link any smartphone with a QR scanner to information about the sex attacker, including composite sketches and descriptions of the man, as well as descriptions of two cars the man might have used to flee attack locations, Clarke said Wednesday.

« We’re hopeful this will generate key pieces of information we haven’t yet secured, » he said.

In January, police appealed for public help in catching a man in his 20s or 30s that DNA evidence showed had attacked three women under 30 on their way home from a bar in the early morning.

The decision to use the new technology was based on the age ranges of both the attacker and the victims.

Police believe young people who frequent Granville Street clubs are more likely to be high-tech savvy and seek their information through less conventional sources than newspapers or TV news.

« It’s a younger group of people with a different lifestyle and different habits and they consume media differently, » Clarke said. « We just tried to find a way to reach them.

« This is a tactic we’ve identified to get information in front of the right eyes. »

But Clarke said the move is not so much about being on the cutting edge of technology as about using any and all available means to catch the sex attacker.

« We’re very outcome-oriented, » he said, adding it’s the police’s top priority to catch the man, prosecute him and, ultimately, stop the attacks.

Police said in January that they believed five other similar assaults were connected to the man but are unconfirmed by DNA.

Since then, one more assault, also unconfirmed by DNA, takes the total of potentially connected assaults up to six, Clarke said.

The tally of DNA-confirmed and not-DNA-confirmed attacks comes to nine.

The first attack dates to July 1, 2009, and occurred in the 1600-block West 4th Avenue off-ramp of the Granville Street Bridge.

The second attack happened Nov. 15, 2009, in the 900-block Beach Avenue just after the victim entered a lobby.

The third attack occurred June 12, 2010, at Marinaside Crescent and Drake Street.

Police describe the man as having olive or tanned skin, with dark hair that is curly, but slicked back. He’s well dressed and well groomed, in his 20s or 30s and of average build and medium height.
He relies on surprise and circumstance to attack and police are urging women to be vigilant for their safety, especially when walking alone at night.

Police think he either targets women at clubs, stalks them and attacks them on their way home, or he waits in residential areas for potential targets to show up.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 604-717-0602 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Source : The Province

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