Put suspects' pics on Web? Yes, but do add disclaimer

September 03, 2004

Should the City of Frederick post the pictures of people arrested for prostitution-related offenses on the city's Web site?

Yes. The Herald-Mail routinely publishes pictures of those who've been arrested and those sought by the police, so we don't have a problem with it.

However, it would be nice if the Web site included a disclaimer saying that suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And, the city might also consider an innovative anti-prostitution program that started this year in Tucson, Ariz.

Mayor Jennifer Dougherty defended the postings in a Tuesday press conference, saying it's a "health and safety matter."

Questioned about whether the project was meant to humiliate people, the mayor said, "Only for those who are arrested."

Dino Flores, speaking on behalf of the Association of County Defense Attorneys, said posting the photos interferes with the rights of the accused.


The Web site does not include any statement saying that those arrested are merely suspects.

It only says that the pictures are of people charged within the last 30 days. Mayor Dougherty had better hope that none of those whose pictures are posted are exonerated, or the city might have some court action of a different sort on its hands.

That said, the city does have a strong interest in controlling prostitution. As its Web site notes, because many prostitutes are drug addicts, they tend to attract drug dealers and other criminal activity, not to mention being a source of sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the Arizona Star, the city of Tucson earlier this year started a program called Safety Through Deterrence.

"Johns" seeking prostitutes are not arrested on their first stop, but counseled by officers on the health risks involved and on the detrimental effect on the neighborhood.

Names are taken and those who reoffend are arrested immediately. Of 217 men stopped in a five week period, only five reoffended. Most of those stopped were married men about 40 to 49 years of age

We are not advocating coddling criminals, but counseling first-time offenders instead of arresting them gives those who may never have been involved in criminal activity before a chance to reevaluate their behavior. It also saves police time, since the identities of the "johns" are recorded, though they're not arrested.

The project also has merit because once a man is counseled, he has no excuse for seeking a prostitute again. Those who do should be subject to a more severe penalty.

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