A profile on the dating app Tinder has been created using the name and likeness of a violent sex offender who police say is at high-risk to reoffend.
On Nov. 10, police advised the public that a 30-year-old man named Phillip Lionel Levac would be moving into the North Central neighbourhood in Regina. A spokesperson said the force was trying to inform the public and not to encourage vigilantism against the man.
Now concerns have been raised on social media because there is a profile of a 30-year-old man calling himself ‘Phil’ who appears to be the offender.
Regina police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich said the police service has been notified by members of the public of the profile’s existence.
She said police are investigating to confirm if the profile does indeed belong to Levac, and to determine whether or not having a Tinder profile is a breach of Levac’s probation conditions.
“If we find through our investigation that there is a breach, then the appropriate charges would be laid,” said Popowich.
Perpetrators use dating sites to find victims
Lisa Miller, executive director of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre, said that she sees perpetrators utilizing dating sites to find victims all too often in her line of work.
“We have a number of clients who have, unfortunately, experienced sexual assault by individuals that they have met on dating sites,” said Miller.
“These are not things that are necessarily being reported to the police. But we know that they’re happening because they’re coming in and this has been their experience. It’s real. It’s happening,” she said.
Miller said the anonymity of dating sites makes people more vulnerable to being victimized.
Levac bound by number of conditions
Levac’s criminal history and location was released by the Regina Police Service as part of the Saskatchewan Public Disclosure Act. According to police, it is meant to allow the public to take preventative measures to not come into contact with him.
“It’s not unlawful for him to live in this community, but we don’t want him to offend here,” said Popowich.
Levac is bound by a number of conditions, but he is not explicitly instructed to stay off social media or dating applications.
However, his conditions do include a requirement to immediately notify his probation officer of any person he becomes involved with in a sexual or close personal relationship. This is so the probation officer can notify the person of his violent history.
A Psychological Risk Assessment completed in August 2015 determined Levac was at high risk for sexual offending.
Miller says she wonders why he would be released if he was still considered dangerous.
According to police, Levac never completed any programming designated to address his risk factors and he has not made any progress in reducing his high risk to re-offend.
“I think it begs the question, why is he out in our community?” said Miller.
Miller thinks restrictions on using applications like Tinder or other social media sites should be in place for offenders like Levac.
“I think it’s safe to say, when we have child sex offenders who are not permitted to have access to the internet so that they can’t access images of children or lure children, I suppose a discussion could be changes to conditions for individuals like this that can protect people who may meet him online.”
Caution advised when using dating sites
Miller advises people to exercise caution when meeting people from dating sites. For example, she advises people to use their own transportation.
“Make sure you are in a public place around other people and really get to know that person before you take relationships further where you may be in a situation where you would be vulnerable,” said Miller.
Tinder did not respond in time for publication about its policies regarding users with this kind of criminal history, but their site offered safety guidelines as well.
The website echoes Miller’s advice, telling people to always meet and stay in public for first meetings and to transport themselves to and from the meeting.
According to their website, Tinder also advises users to keep their communications on the platform before meeting someone in person because “bad actors often push people to communicate off the platform immediately.”
The website also advises people to stay sober and to tell family members and friends of their plans, including where and when they are going to meet someone.