Controversy of NJ police dept.'s Facebook page

August 13, 2010 2:54:29 PM PDT
If you commit a crime in Evesham, N.J. expect to see your mug shot on the police department's Facebook page.

For the last six months the faces of arrestees and the details of their crimes have been posted on the internet for anyone to see.

"I think it's helpful," said Phyllis Lazev of Evesham Twp., "If there a crime in my area, I know where it is. I've actually seen people I know on it."

Police say putting the mug shots on Facebook is not meant to demean, embarrass or humiliate anyone. Rather, it is meant to get information to the public and, hopefully, act as a deterrent.

"When they see and read the information on our Facebook page, it gives them the opportunity to provide immediate feedback either in the comment section or links that we have on our Facebook page where they can email us with tips," said Capt. Frank Locantore of the Evesham Twp. Police.

In fact, information from Facebook comments helped lead to the July arrest of 20-year-old James Dahl, who's accused of setting 13 fires.

Police recently added the mug shots of accused drunk drivers, but have temporarily stopped that while they get a legal interpretation.

That's because drunk driving is not a criminal offense, it's a motor vehicle offense - although still a public record.

Defense attorney Jack Furlong says posting mug shots isn't about public safety, it's about shaming people.

"Privacy rights in the internet area are under constant assault," Furlong said. "This is just another example of a lack of common sense."

"I don't think you'd want the embarrassment of everyone knowing. Your peers, your friends, or people from work to know that you're doing that," said Mark Bassett of Evesham Township.

"Why have them on there? People are going to assume they're guilty. It's just not fair until we know for sure," said Janet Hadley of Southampton.

Police make no apologies for using Facebook and posting the pictures. They say they're just keeping up with technology and the way citizens communicate.


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