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EDITORIAL – Police need to ramp up transparency in crime reports

Security camera caught break-in in progress at Kamloops business.

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

EVERY FEW DAYS, it seems, there’s a report from Kamloops RCMP about a break-in at a business.

In many cases, a general location is provided — such as the street and block — but the business itself is not identified. Often, media track down the name of the business and report it anyway.

Sometimes, though, we never do learn which business was robbed.

It’s not only break-ins for which details of location are withheld. For example, the police report of shots fired on Columbia Street West last month didn’t identify the Hospitality Inn. It was included in media reports only because it was such a high-profile incident that everybody knew where it was.

More recently, there have been a couple of break-ins in which RCMP reports included only the street-and-block identifier. No idea what the business was, or even what was stolen.

This isn’t an oversight. By policy, police don’t report the name of the business unless the merchant specifically approves it. That policy is referred to by RCMP as a “courtesy” to the business.

There’s only one good reason I can think of for this courtesy — if there’s reason to think there might be a return or copycat attack. Otherwise, details should be released.

This concern for courtesy and privacy emerges in strange ways. In RCMP parlance, victims are “transported to a local medical facility.” In other words, Royal Inland Hospital. I’ve never understood that one.

The most concerning aspect of the “courtesy” extended by RCMP is violent incidents such as shootings and stabbings. Telling us it happened in a parking lot or outside an unnamed motel or at a residence in some vague location doesn’t cut it. The public needs to know.

When there’s a genuine reason that privacy is of concern, or that providing details would interfere with an investigation, we can all accept that.

Otherwise, transparency should prevail, especially when there’s an issue of public safety.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7848 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Police need to ramp up transparency in crime reports

  1. We are often advised to “be aware of our surroundings”. How aware are we to be?
    Our safety is contracted to a third party through payment of municipal taxes. It isn’t a perfect system but that’s how things are.

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