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Copy Cat Crime -- What Can Be Done?

By       Message Don Hall     Permalink
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Whenever there is a murder, especially a mass murder like recently in Colorado and Wisconsin, I cringe, thinking about copy-cats: Is this a copy of a previous crime, or how long until there is a copy of this one?  

The treatment of these crimes in the news raises the perpetrator onto a pedestal, giving them much more than "fifteen minutes" of fame.   With the recent court appearance by the Arizona shooter, he is at more-like fifteen months of fame.  

I believe that if the legitimate news media would report these crimes, keeping the shooter's name and, especially, image out of the story, there would be much less incentive for copy cats to arise.  

In addition to the copy cat problem, the families of the victims certainly do not need the constant harassment by the name and image of the person that has brought them immeasurable misery.   And, the family of the perpetrator does not need the constant reminder of their perceived failure to protect society.  

Of course, the identity of a perpetrator is going to get out, and if the person evades capture, the name needs to be public.   However, once the person is in custody, we need to shun them, demonstrating our disapproval and disgust.   Our news media can teach us how by example.  

The same issues arise with a court appearance.   I live in Virginia, and when the older of the DC snipers had his day in court, the local newspaper accosted us with a huge photo of his face, looking over his shoulder from the front of the courtroom.   What a slap in the face for a victim's family member looking at the front page.  

The cliched "perp walk", shown on the nightly news, is simply easy pickings for the photographers and videographers.   Instead, let's have proper advance notice of a court date, for anyone who needs to attend -- no names or images, only "the Colorado shooter" or similar.   Report any actual news from the trial, but keep the spotlight off the perpetrator.   To expand the story, report on how the victims and families are doing, and how we can help them, while respecting their privacy.   The coverage of Representative Giffords -- obviously a public figure -- was a welcome relief from coverage of the shooter, while bordering on being intrusive of her privacy.  

The bottom line is that news coverage of these horrible crimes needs to help us remember the victims and forget the perpetrator.   That way there will be less temptation to copy the crime.


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Don is the husband of an exceptional wife, with five beautiful children, a daughter-in-law, and a son-in-law very soon. He lives just south of Richmond, VA. He is a mechanical engineer, and admits he tends to apply engineering principles to life (more...)

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Copy Cat Crime -- What Can Be Done?