Opinion: Tough on crime

POSTED: 11/9/11 12:51 AM

The Netherlands is getting tougher on crime and the issue is now more important than the privacy citizens once coveted. The latest development in the get-tough on crime development is a decision to allow individual citizens to publish pictures and videos of robbers and suspects of other crimes on the internet.
Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party filed a motion to this extent and the parliament passed it yesterday. The condition for publishing images without having to fear for prosecution is that someone must have filed a complaint with the police and the images must also be made available to the police.
We’re all for measures that contribute to curbing crime, but we really wonder whether this will help. We also wonder whether it is maybe simply going too far.
What happened to the right to privacy? How come the Dutch suddenly are okay with publishing pictures of suspects? Who decides that somebody is a suspect? And what if the suspect turns out to be a completely innocent look-a-like?
These questions apparently don’t bother the Dutch parliamentarians who voted for the motion. How will it work in practice? The condition that the images must be made available to the police is meaningless and even laughable: once a picture is published on the internet it is available for all. So that’s a nice piece of window dressing.
What then about the condition that someone must have filed a complaint? What does this mean? There is a robbery and somebody files a complaint. Basically everybody and his uncle is then free to post a picture of someone they don’t like (one’s ex for instance) and insinuate that he is a suspect.
It will be a most interesting parade of meaningless pictures on the internet. Sure, out of every thousand pictures, somebody just might recognize a real bad guy. But the other 999? They get fifteen seconds of fame on the net, but it is most likely not the attention they are waiting for.
Still, we could have this all wrong (honestly, we have been wrong before but that does not stop us from having an opinion anyway) and the picture-publishing exercise will have a wonderful effect on the Dutch crime rate. We sincerely wish this to be true. And if these wonderful results materialize, we encourage all cell-phone toting readers to keep their camera phone at the ready, because the next local robbery is always right around the corner.
We shouldn’t catch too many of them of course. That will only give Justice Minister Duncan a headache because he does not have enough cells to lock up all criminals.

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