On Facebook today, I posted a CCTV picture of a couple of youths (they look to be around 14 or 15) who are wanted after they stole a phone and a scooter from another young boy. I was admonished by a friend for doing so because they are young kids and someone that recognises them may decide to take the law into their own hands. I was a little affronted initially with indignant thoughts of “justice must be served” but then thought a bit more and realised that the situation is not quite that black and white.
It has left me with the question, “at what point is the privacy of the offenders a higher priority than getting justice for the victim”? Where children are involved, I’m not sure I have an absolute position.
First of all, let’s look at my motive for putting the picture up. In the grand scheme of things, this is a low grade crime. There was no violence visited upon the victim and the total value of the property is probably under $500. The police are always stretched too thin and there are far more significant crimes involving violence and much more valuable property, so this will not be at the top of their list. Attempts to solve this crime will most likely be limited to asking people in the vicinity of the incident if they saw anything or if they recognise those involved. If not, then it is a case of waiting till they try to flog them at a second hand store. it is more likely that the thieves will use the items for a while and then dispose of them.
What justice does this provide for the victim? Basically, none. Step in, the public. The picture in question was shared by a friend and I did the same in the hope that someone recognises them and contacts the police. Hopefully, they can be caught with the items in their possession and they can be returned to the boy. They will hopefully get a wake up call and maybe set on the right path through a young offenders program or something else that helps them learn some self discipline and respect. I’m probably being a little old fashioned here.
So what’s wrong with that approach? Well, as another friend pointed out, the guilty parties are children too and likewise need protection. What if someone does recognise them and decide to “sort them out” themselves rather than take the information to the police. Even if they don’t do it themselves, it is not hard to post their personal details, leaving it open to someone else doing the job for them. Whilst I am all for justice for the victim, I am most certainly not in favour of vigilante style retribution. I want proper process to be followed.
There is an additional issue.
Once something is on the internet and being shared, it will always be there. If the pictures get tagged the boys become eternally related to that incident. There is a growing trend for employers to ask to see social media profiles of people to see what they are like. If this appears turns up on the search, how is it going to affect their employability. Not well I would think. Should this one act be so pivotal that it affects the rest of their life? Certainly not. People need to be able to move away from their past and lead a better life. One minor criminal act in your youth should not define the rest of your life.
So where does this leave me? Well, I still tend to fall on the side of the victim, but I recognise the need to protect the perpetrators in this case also.
Maybe someone with a better social barometer than me has the right answer.