Long arm of the law works its funny bone

'We aren't a comedy show,' Saanich detective says of quirky crime reports with a following

With headlines like “The curious case of the constantly stolen truck” and “Dumb criminal of the month award,” press releases from the Saanich Police on Vancouver Island are gaining a following for their quirky content. Its “chip bandits” report went viral earlier this month—along with a cheeky TV news report of the incident—largely because of its odd retelling of an incident in which an elderly homeowner was awakened by her growling chihuahua after two intoxicated women broke into her garage. They stole bags of BBQ-flavoured chips, because, the release suggested, “the effervescent chips” were “shimmering in the moonlight.”

The irreverent tone of the crime announcements is the work of Sgt. Dean Jantzen, the department’s public information officer, and is a sharp departure from the bland legalese of most police statements. While he cautions, “We are the police. We aren’t a comedy show,” his efforts have paid off. Visits to the police website are up a third since last year. “If you inject a little bit of humour,” says the 17-year veteran, who had no writing experience before landing the job two years ago, “you stand a far better chance of the message being carried further.”

Perhaps it helps that Saanich, just north of Victoria, has a crime rate 31 per cent below the national average. Jantzen often focuses on the dangers of seemingly small incidents, such as when an emergency response team was mistakenly sent out after reports of a man with a gun—it turned out he had a curling iron in his pants (title: “Dangerous hairstyling incident”). As for the “dumb criminal” release, police know the identity of the suspect in a home robbery after they found a backpack containing court documents with his name. “Note to self,” Jantzen wrote. “When breaking into a residence, do not leave documents in your name at the scene of the crime.”

Watch the “chip bandits” video:

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