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Archive for Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Future criminals?

September 4, 2002

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To the editor:

When I go to a flea market, or an antique store I am interested in little of what is found on the shelves and tables. Mainly, I look for old golf clubs. I tune my eyes to see particular shapes. As I scan the room I don't really "see" its contents. In fact, I don't "see" anything except what I am looking for. The only things I find will be golf clubs and things that look somewhat like them, like canes and umbrellas. While I am no scientist I suspect there is a study somewhere which confirms that most of us work in this same way. We see what we are looking for.

In the Aug. 26 J-W there's an article about Delaware police "jump-out squads" who temporarily detain and photograph "loiterers." They put the names and photographs into a database of "people likely to break the law." When a crime is committed the police look to this database for suspects. But many of these people, these "loiterers," have no prior criminal records. They just live there, and like the rest of us, tend to be found where they live.

So how do you think this database works? Does it work like I do when I go to the flea market? Do the police find what they are looking for? How do you think these "future criminals" look in those "jump-out squad" streetside mug shots? Do you think they look like criminals? Of course they do. The presumption has already been made.

I saw another article in the Aug. 26 J-W. One in 32 adults in this country is in prison, on probation, or on parole.

William J. Skepnek,

Lawrence

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