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Back-to-back safety advisories from police 'purely a coincidence'

'It comes down to public and community safety and that’s what we are entrusted to do every day,' says Barrie police official
Within just a few weeks of each other, local police forces took the rare step of releasing "community safety advisories" about two offenders living in the community. The first came from the OPP on July 17 regarding Lauriston Maloney (left) in Essa Township, followed by a similar warning on Aug. 16 from Barrie police regarding Tony Gordon.

It’s simply a unique set of circumstances that law enforcement agencies in Simcoe County issued two separate "community safety advisories" regarding high-risk offenders in recent weeks, according to police officials.

But it has been a rare step for local police, either provincial or municipal. 

The first was released by Nottawasaga OPP on July 17 about convicted sex offender Lauriston Maloney, who was living in Essa Township at the site of a children’s camp run by his wife.

Maloney was convicted in Peel Region in 2004 and 2013 for 16 criminal charges related to trafficking of minor children. These convictions placed him on the national and Ontario sex offender registry for life.

He has also now been subsequently charged with two counts of assault, trafficking in a person, receiving material benefit resulting from trafficking a person, and forcible confinement after the OPP said investigators received "additional information."

His wife, Amber Maloney, is currently charged with trafficking in a person, receiving material benefit resulting from trafficking a person, administering a noxious substance, fraud over $5,000, and uttering a forged document. 

None of the new charges against the Maloneys have been tested in court. 

Meanwhile, the second community safety advisory was issued by Barrie Police Service on Aug. 16 regarding Tony Gordon, 30, who was recently released from custody. His previous convictions include sexual assault, assault by choking, suffocation or strangulation, break and enter, and trespassing/prowling at night.

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon said its advisory was the first such one the local service has issued since he joined the department as a civilian in October 2018. Prior to this week's warning, Barrie police had not issued a public warning of this type since March 2016, more than seven years ago.

“It is unique that in this part of Simcoe County there have been two of them in the past three weeks, but it’s a coincidence," Leon told BarrieToday. "When we receive this information, we have a duty and an obligation.

"It comes down to public and community safety and that’s what we are entrusted to do every day as the police service with jurisdiction in our community. We will do what is necessary to keep everyone safe,” he added.

There have been provisions under the Police Services Act for many years to allow for such community safety advisories, added Bill Dickson, the OPP's manager of media relations.

“The fact that there have now been two in close proximity is purely a coincidence. The two matters are not related and are very different,” Dickson told BarrieToday.

Under Section 265/98 of the Police Services Act, law enforcement agencies can release information that could reduce any potential risk, said Dickson, adding public safety is "paramount."

“Police services have the authority under the Police Services Act to notify the public that a sex offender is residing in the community if they believe that the public might be at risk," he said. "The OPP will use that authority to ensure public safety.

"Any decision to issue such an advisory would follow a careful review of an offender and any potential risk they pose," Dickson added. "Information issued to the public is done so as a precautionary measure."

Meanwhile, Leon, who's a retired OPP officer with many years of working in media relations, recalled at least two other situations from his time with provincial police where a public warning was issued in other jurisdictions — one in the Peterborough area and another in Clearview Township — in addition to the one released last month by Nottawasaga OPP.

“We have a duty and an obligation to keep our community safe,” he said.

Regarding the recent warning from Barrie police, Leon said local officials believed strongly that Gordon — with the conditions attached to his release — was something the public should know about. 

The goal is to ensure the community is safe at all times, he added.

“This is something that the chief will authorize only when they deem it necessary," said Leon. "We don’t do it obviously with every person that is being released from custody, but if we do, there are very important reasons for it. The biggest thing is the fact that this person has been convicted of some very, very serious offences and there is a strong possibility that he could re-offend.”

Leon said he thinks these types of public safety advisories are effective.

“I believe strongly that the more information that our community has, especially when there is the potential for an offender like this being released and coming to our community, they need to know who is around them at all times," he said. 

Prior to releasing any safety advisory, Leon said a lot of work goes into it. 

“We follow careful consideration, including privacy, but when you are a person who is convicted of serious offences and you are released to the community, we have to do what we have to do," he said. "We will do whatever is necessary in the best interest of ensuring public safety.”

Dickson said provincial police also take all factors into account and weigh the individual’s right to privacy with the public’s right to know about a potential danger. 

“Our bottom line is public safety. We, of course, do not condone any potential vigilante behaviour," he said.