I Know Where You Live

Today the Providence Journal reports a horrific home invasion and rape of a pregnant woman in Central Falls. The victim’s nine year old son witnessed the crime. He is a victim too. Following long-standing editorial policy, the Journal did not disclose the name of the victim. Instead they published her address, along with a helpful link to Google Maps. The attackers are still at large.

Reading between the lines, drugs may have been involved. I don’t care. It sounds like the victim is cooperating and the police have some leads.

Every so often, someone questions the Journal policy of publishing the names and addresses of people who report crimes. I remember when a Journal employee out jogging in Pawtuxet was punched out by some guys he didn’t know. The Journal printed his name, address and place of work.

The Journal defended their policy, saying that naming names deters false reports. For sure, and deters true ones too. A reporter said to me, ‘some of these old ladies leave their windows open.’ Well, the Journal will teach them a lesson, I guess.

Here is another story from today.
I’ve blocked out identifiers…

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — A Pawtucket man was shot in the foot late Monday night, said Major Arthur Martins of the Pawtucket Police Department.

At midnight, the police received a call from Miriam Hospital reporting a man had been admitted with a gun-shot wound to his foot, Martins said.

The man, [name, age, address], said he was shot around 11:30 p.m. in front of a closed convenience store at ——-, Martins said.

“We went to the area he said this occurred and did not find any shell casings or any people who reported hearing shots fired,” Martins said. “We are not saying it didn’t happen there; we just don’t have definitive proof.”

——-told officers he was walking down West Avenue, saw a car drive past him, turn around and approach him, Martins said. —— said he saw the car’s window go down and then heard four shots fired, Martins said.

——— walked to the home of a friend, who drove him to the hospital, Martins said.

“He said he has no enemies and no idea who would shoot him.

If this was a case of mistaken identity, or random malice, the victim is at a disadvantage. He has no idea who shot him, but the shooter can find out where the victim lives, and also that he reported to the police.

A newspaper is not a conduit, like a storm sewer, where news flows to the lowest level. There’s editors and reporters and journalistic standards and discretion what they report and why. Our one major state newspaper stubbornly defends publishing information that could add to the stigma, and danger, suffered by crime victims. A nine year old boy has been outed for witnessing a crime against his mother. What public benefit is there to publishing his address? Is this universal newspaper practice?

We just got home from Louisville, Kentucky. Their major newspaper has a website that
lists every police report for every neighborhood. It’s a great tool for citizens who want to be aware of what’s happening and which kinds of crimes are occurring where. But they don’t list names or addresses. The Louisville Courier-Journal crime reports look like this…

Details about case 80-11-049478
ASSAULT – 4TH DEGREE (MINOR INJURY)
8500 BLOCK OF KIMBERLY WAY

DATE: JUNE 26, 2011
TIME: 4:12 AM

This isn’t complicated. We have a right and a need to know what is happening where. In the case of a major crime like this awful home invasion I want to know which part of Central Falls. But I think of that woman and her little boy and wonder if they have a safe place to live. I think about neighbors and classmates and lost privacy. I think about cars cruising by in the night, about people who get off on crime and people who might want to scare away witnesses. And I wonder why the Journal stubbornly refuses to consider the safety and dignity of crime victims when they make their policies.

UPDATE: I asked in the comments to the story in ProJo online why they printed the address and got a quick response saying it has been removed. Thank you, ProJo.

SUSPECT IN CUSTODY: They have a suspect, the above link has details.

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8 responses

  1. The information identifying a victim of a sex crime is not essential to the public’s right to be informed nor to a free press.
    Reporting the crime is important.the details are important,as that may bring forth other victims.
    The rape victim has enough to contend with already.

    1. I agree. I want to know what is going on, but people have a right to privacy. If I know within a block or two where a crime occurred I can be watchful. Anyone who has useful information on the crime probably has other sources of information than the news.

      1. I saw on the news last night that the woman recanted the rape claim.
        However,the basic principle we discussed remains valid I think.

  2. Did you see where the NY Times reported that the District Attorney’s office in NY County has found serious problems with the maid’s account in the Strauss-Kahn case?
    She apparently has been involved in money laundering and other activities related to drug trafficking and has filed a suspected fraudulent asylum claim?
    They consider these facts and holes found in her story serious enough that they are considering dropping the case.
    I won’t jump to conclusions,but I read the details of her alleged drug related activities and can say from experience they do fit the profile of someone engaged in an organized criminal enterprise.
    If the case falls apart,it’s going to rattle some cages for sure.
    Hard to say what to think right now.
    The fact that these inconsistencies were raised by the prosecutors rather than defense attorneys is significant.

  3. That will make it hard for prosecutors. If she were profiting from her associations with people who were selling drugs and money laundering, it wasn’t enough to quit her job as a maid. I hope the NYT will keep on investigating.

    1. Nancy-you just made a very interesting comment.
      I spent nine years on a Federal/State/Local drug task force and learned quite a bit as you might imagine.
      One WOULD wonder why a person making drug profits(untaxed of course)might keep a menial,unpleasant job.On the surface it makes no sense.
      However,I know first hand of numerous Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers who made a lot of money and yet lived in modest apartments,drove old cars,and had factory jobs.
      Why?
      To maintain a low profile.They sent their money home(often by ingenious means such as concealing microcompressed currency in innocent items.There was a candy factory in Pawtucket that employed a lot of traffickers(the company was totally unaware)who used the machinery to conceal money in candy wrappers.Apparently the company didn’t care how much “candy’workers took home.It’s not like it was a jewelry company.
      These same “menials” had haciendas and high end cars back in the home country.
      My experience with the Mexicans was in Chicago with the “Hernandez/Corral”drug trafficking group operating ut of Santiago Papasquiero,Durango.They were a proto-cartel.My encounters with them were in the 70′s and early 80′s.
      You couldn’t tell them from the everyday Mexican factory workers.

  4. I’ve never even heard of a newspaper putting victims’ addresses in the articles. That’s so shocking to me.

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