Between the late 1970s and 1998, 27 women were reported missing from the Downtown Eastside. Three of those women were reported missing in 1995, five in 1997 and 11 in 1998.
Rossmo, who graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in criminology in 1978, urged the Vancouver police to begin a hunt for a serial killer. He prepared a press release to warn the public of a potential threat, but his fellow officers and superiors ignored the warning during a meeting with the RCMP in September of 1998. Many in the force believed those who had gone missing, the majority of them homeless, just ran away and didn’t want to be found.
Years later, in 2002, police arrested pig farmer Robert Pickton after searching his farm for the missing women.
Pickton was initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder but quickly racked up 25 more after police found remains or DNA of 33 women on his property, about an hour drive from downtown.
In 2007, he was convicted of six murders and is now serving a life sentence.A lengthy 1,448 page report on the Pickton case, released in December 2012, criticized the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP for not cooperating with each other during the case and for substandard investigations.
The report also stated that the Vancouver Police Department should have taken Rossmo’s warnings to heart.
Rossmo told the StarPhoenix that he hopes the Pickton case will be used as an example for police departments working on similar cases.
“Now nothing can be done to bring these women back, but this (report) is a recipe for avoiding future tragedies,” Rossmo said.
Rossmo, a Saskatoon native, attended Brunskill Elementary School and Evan Hardy Collegiate. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1978 and went on to be the first Canadian police officer to receive a doctorate when he received a PhD in criminology from Simon Fraser University in 1995.
He is most well known for his creation of geographic profiling — a criminology technique that analyzes the locations of a series of crimes to help determine the location of the perpetrator. Geographic profiling is used worldwide to investigate crime, terrorist activity and animal foraging.
After 20 years of working on Vancouver’s police force, Rossmo became the director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence and Investigation at Texas State University.