[UPDATED] Pacific Centre persons of interest 'not racial profiling': Chief Palmer

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UPDATE – January 15: 3:10 p.m. The three men have been identified by Vancouver Police. All men were cooperative with investigators who have determined the men’s actions to be “completely innocent.” Read more

EARLIER

Vancouver Police want to speak to the three men who were seen taking photos and videos of the entrances and exits of Pacific Centre shopping mall in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.. An internal bulletin first obtained by Vancity Buzz through a tip on Thursday evening indicated law enforcement officials were seeking the identities of the Middle Eastern men.

Prior to the publication of the story, Vancity Buzz confirmed and discussed the details of the bulletin with police. According to the released details, there were unsuccessful attempts by mall security to locate the men, whom were also recorded on CCTV security footage. Pacific Centre deemed the activity suspicious and reported the incident to investigators. Through Operation Securus, which was formed to address and prevent potential public safety threats, businesses are encouraged to recognize suspicious activities or encounters to police.

During a press conference this morning, Chief Constable Adam Palmer reiterated that the activity was suspicious, but cautioned that these people have not committed a crime and no offence has been committed.

“Come in and talk to us and let us know what you were doing in the mall that day,” said Palmer. 

“We have no idea if these people were just tourists in town taking photographs, contractors taking photographs for legitimate reasons, or it can be something that is more serious – maybe they’re casing the place. The bottom line is we just don’t know at this point so we’re taking further investigative steps to determine that.” Given the events that have been happening around the world, Palmer says the force is taking the incident seriously and a team of analysts and detectives are working on the case.

He added that the “Middle Eastern” descriptor included in the bulletin was not racial profiling given that all information released to the media or other policies agencies on missing persons, persons of interest, and suspects include ethnicity, regardless of whether they are Caucasian, Asian or South Asian. Ethnicity helps narrow down the search for individuals.

“These folks look Middle Eastern, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “It’s a normal common descriptor.” Anyone with information on the identities of the men is asked to call the Vancouver Police Department at 604-717-3235.

Full statement issued by Vancouver Police Chief Constable Adam Palmer:

Around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12th, police received information that three suspicious men, described as looking Middle Eastern, were seen inside Pacific Centre Mall taking numerous photographs, including photos of the entrances and exits. There is no information to believe that these men have committed a crime. Nor do we have information to believe that the public is currently at risk. Police are interested in speaking with them about their activity in the mall. Public safety remains our top priority and we are working with mall security and management to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. The VPD has been conducting an investigation into the actions and identity of these three men. There have been a number of investigative steps that have taken place in an attempt to identify them. Investigations not only work to confirm, but to eliminate the possibility that an offence has taken place. Out of an abundance of caution, we need to gather information to determine what was happening in the mall. Police routinely conduct investigations into suspicious activity, and encourage the reporting of suspicious actions (Operation SECURUS). We do everything we can to obtain and hold that information in a confidential manner. The information obtained by the media was part of an internal police information bulletin shared amongst police officers throughout the province of BC. That information, including photographs, was obtained by a Vancouver news outlet via an unknown source, and was not it intended or authorized to be shared with the general public at this time. Police balance public safety, people’s privacy and keeping an open mind in any investigation. For this reason, the VPD has not, and will not, be releasing any photographs at this time. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Vancouver Police Department at 604-717-0505.

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