Humanizing Crime – A Difficult Approach

The most powerful people I can speak to on camera about a crime are not police, judges, prosecutors or witnesses….the most powerful are the victims.

Victims may sound weak and afraid, but in the end their words can be a powerful motivator for police, prosecutors and in many cases, voters.

Victims remind all of us of why justice is so important.

One of the most effective ways of demonstrating the impact of crime is sharing a victim’s story, if they are willing to speak and nobody gets in the way of censoring their perspective.

Often, victims provide the human, emotional connection to a crime  government spokespeople or public information officers just can’t convey with canned, stoic soundbites..

Today I was eager to help a victim of cyberbullying at Prairie View High School share her story.   She is a staff member whose family has been tormented by a mysterious, anonymous bully who created a facebook page in her name and image, and posted explicit messages.   The harassment has been going on since November.

Sickening.  Pathetic.  I hope they catch the culprit and file charges to show this crime isn’t tolerated in Adams County. Will it get to that point?

While speaking to the victim over the phone this morning, I could feel how the torment of this bully affected her life. She’s been losing sleep. She’s been frustrated. She sounded like a nice woman who just wanted this to stop.

I was eager to put her on air and she seemed quite eager to quickly share her perspective about how she’s been coping with the bully.  She seemed ready to show how she went to police, and how there is now a criminal investigation.  Perhaps other parents in her position could learn from her, I thought.  I said we could meet during her lunch hour.  She said she could take lunch anytime.  Sounded good.

And then she said it.  I knew it was coming.  She said she would have to check with her boss first before an interview.

It was at this moment, based on my experience, I knew she would never appear on camera.  A supervisor was now involved and I feared this would erase any chance I had of a valuable interview for today.

I was right.

The victim, quite understandably, recoiled.   She seemed to ignore my follow up text and emails. Instead I got a call from the principal.  He wouldn’t speak on camera.  I asked to speak with the victim and he responded by saying, “she’s working.”

I’m not sure what the principal said to the victim, but it’s clear his involvement delayed her decision to speak candidly before broadcast time.   I don’t blame the guy.  The principal has to look after the school’s reputation and protect the students and staff.  He’s just doing his job too.  He has no idea who I am.  I’m just a new reporter in town.  Perhaps distrust was a motivator and perhaps he just doesn’t see the value in such a report.  That’s just his perspective, if my speculation is accurate.

I had to leave the school to make deadline, and I didn’t have time to wait and see if the victim would eventually come around.

I ran the story anyway without the victim, attributed court documents, and did the best I could to try and convey the seriousness of the crime.  In the end, the victim had no voice and the human element was non-existent in my report.

This happens often during the daily cycle of news.  Deadlines come and go, but always the story is alive in the thoughts and mind of the victim at the center of it all.  I do hope it works out for her.   I hope police get the culprit.   I hope to follow up, if there is a follow up.

Now on to the next story, whatever that may be.

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One thought on “Humanizing Crime – A Difficult Approach

  1. Kevin

    This is a great opinion piece on the story. I am glad I clicked that link and somehow found myself here on your blog. I appreciate your empathy with the principal, and agree he does have “to look after the school’s reputation and protect the students and staff.” I think you speculate all wrong brother. Here is how I see it:

    “Isn’t the victim staff? If she is staff this principal fail at his job? Isn’t he actually just (or rather unjustly) protecting HIS reputation?” Shouldn’t this victim be made aware that this principal already failed her once, why is she letting him do it again?

    I really like the beginning, “Victims may sound weak and afraid, but in the end their words can be a powerful motivator for police, prosecutors and in many cases, voters.” So very, very true, the victim in this story would no longer be a victim if she stepped out. I think the bully is the principal, maybe not the “cyber-bully,” but a bully just the same.

    So glad to have you in Denver, thanks for coming.


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