Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Pursuit of Justice

I forwarded my photograph of the guy vandalizing my car to a short list of people involved in this issue. Several people with the city and bike advocacy groups. One of them was able to confirm the identity of the person in the picture as the owner of the neighboring lot. Given that legal action may be in the works, I will refer to him as "Codename P."

The discussion is what action to take next. The evidence has been given to the police and they will be investigating. Probably. Hopefully. But what will that accomplish? The photo does not show Codename P with toothpaste on his finger so is it actually proof of the commission of a crime? I would say that for all the photos taken during the day, only Codename P appears in the frame and, to trigger the camera and be so caught he needed to be standing there for 15 or 20 seconds. Is that enough to file criminal mischief charges? And what about the other half dozen reports I have filed or the reports filed by other victims in the lot? Can those be taken into account?

One suggestion was to put up posters for the trail users with a warning. "Have you seen this man?" These posters would not identify Codename P by name but would alert people that a vandal was in there area.

I see several flaws with this. If Codename P's objective is to drive people away (the speculation being that he wants to claim ownership of an underutilized lot for his own profit) then putting up posters saying that a vandal is on the loose may actually play into his hands. It could deter people from using the lot at all.

Putting up a poster could tip our hand, revealing that we have a hidden camera. One might think that this sort of surveillance would deter future crimes but, as evidenced by the scores of "Caught on Tape" TV shows, criminals tend to believe they won't get caught and will commit blatant crimes in front of even obvious security cameras. Should Codename P learn that there are hidden cameras, he may become more cautious but probably wouldn't be scared off. My camera isn't so well hidden that someone knowing that a camera was somewhere on the lot couldn't find it. Once found, it's gaze could be easily avoided.

He's been doing this for over a year. Before that, he was approached by the police and told to stop telling commuters that they couldn't park in the lot. He was not deterred by that, why should a vaguely worded poster have any effect?

No, I believe the only thing that will end this is criminal mischief
charges and a court date. A conviction would be nice. Sure, it's only a misdemeanor but I want this guy to have a criminal record and believe that only then will it stop. He needs to know that if any act of vandalism occurs in the lot, his will be the first door that police knock on.

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