Protect the victims, not the criminals 04-01-2011

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Column by Jim Clark

There was a story floating around this past weekend about an armed robbery at a convenience store on State Road 200. Armed robberies like this happen all too often in this county, and members of the media have gotten to the point where we have to treat these items as relatively routine, especially where no one was hurt.

That’s why it was surprising to see information about this robbery get out into the public, complete with the name and family situation of the clerk who was robbed.

Not everyone did it that way. Heaven knows, I’ve had my differences with Channel 20, but they did the right thing, told about the robbery and that officials were looking for a suspect.

That’s the way we treat it. We would certainly never run the name of a victim of a crime such as this unless it took place at the home of the victim. Then, you see, we wouldn’t be helping the perpetrator learn anything about his victim, since he was already at the victim’s house when the crime took place.

But when a robbery takes place in a parking lot, or at a convenience store, or to a bank teller, running the name of that person alerts the suspect, especially if he’s on the loose, as to where he can find this witness if he is so inclined. That puts the victim at risk again, something we choose not to do.

Then there’s the other situation. We run the names of all people that we get who are charged with a felony, regardless of age. State law eliminated the exception to publishing juveniles’ names when they face felony charges years ago. That’s why in the past you’ve seen stories of really young kids charged with murder, especially in South Florida. Fortunately, that kind of thing isn’t common around here.

The reasoning is simple for publishing the names. Don’t you want to know if you’re living near a young person who is accused of a felony? Isn’t it in your best interest to know who the criminals are in your neighborhood? If we can, it’s our job to tell you.

Remember the old television show “Baretta.” There was a line there, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” That kind of applies to this situation. If you don’t want your name in the paper, don’t commit the crime.

So that’s our philosophy in reporting crime. Our goals are rather simple and straightforward: We try to protect readers and victims, not the criminals.


Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or at editor@smcitizen.com