Two N.J. Papers Run Police Ad Listing Drug and Prostitution Suspects

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    From: Editor & Publisher
    America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry
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    Two N.J. Papers Run Police Ad Listing Drug and Prostitution Suspects

    By Joe Strupp

    Published: May 04, 2006 10:55 AM ET

    NEW YORK Paterson, N.J. police are the latest to use paid newspaper advertising as a crime-reduction tool. Police in that New York City suburb took out a full-page ad in two local newspapers Wednesday listing 400 small-time criminals who had recently been hauled in on prostitution and drug dealing charges.

    "There were also a couple of ******** purchasers of alcohol," Deputy Police Chief William Fraher told E&P. "We decided to put their names in and maybe it will discourage them. If it keeps 10 or 20 out of town, that is 10 or 20 fewer we have to worry about."

    The ad, which Fraher estimated to cost about $3,500, ran in The Record of Hackensack. and The Herald & News of West Paterson. Both are owned by North Jersey Media Group.

    Fraher said the names included suspects who live in Passaic County, where Paterson is located, and neighboring Bergen County. He said the ad stemmed from several articles the Record had published in the past year about drug and prostitution customers coming into town from outside. Fraher said exposing their identities was a way of keeping them from coming back.

    Record advertising officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But in an article published in the paper Thursday, Samuel Martin, senior vice president of sales for North Jersey Media Group, defended the action. "As long as we're given ad copy that appears to be correct and truthful and doesn't offend or violate any policy the publisher has set, we would publish it," he said. "Our job is not to attempt to censor information needlessly."

    The ad lists the names of arrested adults, along with their street, hometown, birth date, and type of offense. The list covers arrests between July 1, 2005 and Feb. 28, 2006, and may become a regular feature every three months, the paper reported.

    "I think the message we're sending is that if you commit the act, don't think you can go back home and nobody's going to know what you did," Police Chief James Wittig told the Record.

    But the ads have drawn opposition from some who question the method, claiming it unfairly targets those who have not been convicted. Brian J. *****, a defense attorney quoted by the paper, said the ad amounts to "the newspaper equivalent of the stockade." "Any one of these suspects could have been part of a drug sweep by police," he said. "They might have been on the wrong street at the wrong time."

    Others claim the ad is a stunt by Mayor Joey Torres, who is facing re-election next week, the paper said. But he told the paper the timing was a coincidence. "The pendulum swings when it swings," he said. "These are things that are on the drawing board. They've been planned. The timing just happened to be now."

    Police ads are not new. Other papers have run such advertisements that are limited to prostitution customers in an effort to discourage them as well. In some cases, police have bought space to list names of suspects sought on outstanding warrants, often with positive results.

    In 1998, Paterson's city council voted to publish the names of convicted prostitutes and their customers, the Record wrote. But then-Mayor Marty Barnes blocked the move noting concerns about lawsuits.

    "We have done these things here in the past, in the 70s and 90s," said Fraher, who joined the force in 1975. He defended the naming of suspects not yet convicted, adding that "everyone in the United States knows the names of those two lacrosse players at Duke and no one seems to worry about that."