Yes, that’s me, the hardened criminal mastermind, over to the right. In 2000, I was arrested in Denton County, TX for about five separate traffic violations that at age 21 I was foolish enough to believe would simply go away. Most of the tickets were accrued during my teenage years, and a few of them I’d never even heard of. Still, sitting them out in a jail cell probably taught me a few valuable lessons (like: it’s easier to get out of jail if you’ve robbed a Walmart or ran over someone while drunk than it is if you’re in for a sticker on your car with the wrong date).
Why bring this up? Why embarrass myself? Well, I just learned today via SlipperyBrick that the county of Denton in Texas is now throwing out onto the web all their arrests out by way of Twitter on the account @DentonPolice.
I figured it was only a matter of time before some enterprising person figured out it was all made possible by Denton’s super-connected policy of publicly searchable arrest records and mugshots, and tried to see if I was available at all to be surprised by it.
How fair is this system, though, that will serve to humiliate offenders who might deserve it? Granted, I was personally guilty of my offenses, and I admitted to it and paid my debt to society.
But most people who are arrested, be it for stupid crap like me or serious crimes, are still afforded innocence until proven guilty. The wisdom in not only trumpeting out their crimes via the megaphone of Twitter but keeping their records publicly searchable for almost a decade is highly questionable.
On The Other Hand
Out of morbid curiosity, I did some clicking through the Twitter feed for the account to get an idea for what constitutes for an arrestable offense in the county just to my Northwest here in Dallas. Most of the crimes are pretty understandable – theft, battery, DUIs, and so on.
The comments were plentiful and incredulous:
melonball6 on April 18, 2009
seriously! a ticket would have been more appropriate.
johncajigas on April 18, 2009
a ticket wasn’t enough? seems a bit harsh.
CadmarHuxtable on April 18, 2009
Arrested for less than 20 miles over? Sucks for you lady.
dave204 on April 20, 2009
Are the Taliban in charge of Denton police? Its like something from the Middle Ages in Britain! “Caught watching TV” will be next!! Get real..
nikkoblam on April 19, 2009
that’s crazy to arrest someone for speeding? weird too. thank goodness i don’t live in Denton!
ldswinney on April 19, 2009
Arrested for speeding? Damn, Denton cops are strict.
It brings another possibility to mind – this Twitter account is recieving a fair amount of press coverage, both in the blogosphere as well as mainstream media websites and TV broadcasts.
It’s very possible that the extremely harsh nature of Denton County Justice becomes common knowledge outside the DFW Metroplex (and believe me, there are areas of Denton County that you don’t want to go to if you’re just having a bad luck day – Lewisville cops – well, just don’t get me started there).
At some point, it’s going to become a PR problem for the county, and they’re going to need to take a look at how putting this information online could damage them. Just in the last hour day, I’ve noticed about five arrests for simple traffic violations (with fines for the five folks surpassing $10,000 total).
It’s clear that a large portion of the county is funded on the backs of overly harsh sentences on petty violators. Denton used to have a national reputation as a haven for artists, musicians and other sorts of social misfits and interesting people that Austin is known for.
They’re in danger of having that reputation replaced by the appearance of being the traffic Gestapo.