Justin Fenton in London: Police think ignorance of crime is bliss
Friday 13 November 2009
Hours before I arrived in the London neighbourhood of Kentish Town last Thursday, a transgender prostitute named Destiny Lauren was found dead a few streets away from where I was staying. But the news didn't spread for several days, when police announced that an unidentified man had been held "in connection" with the crime and released on bail.
The police here typically wait until an arrest has been made, or until they're stuck and need the public's help, to publicise major crimes. One press officer told me that the public should only know about crimes when police need to get the information out.
I can't tell you how many times a crime falls through the cracks in Baltimore and we get accused of covering things up for police. People demand to know what is happening, and the backlash is swift when officials fail to inform the community about a major incident.
When someone is arrested, there are some interesting differences. First, here you can be arrested merely for suspicion of a crime and placed on "police bail", in which restrictions can be imposed. After a suspect is booked, their fingerprints are taken and an officer takes a swab for their DNA.
This is different from the process in Maryland, where until recently DNA was only collected upon conviction and which currently occurs only when someone is charged with a violent crime.
Those who are charged are put in their own private cell, which has a toilet, and they are drug tested. If they fail the test, they are hooked up with a drug counsellor. In Maryland, the only time the criminal justice system can impose such requirements is upon a conviction – at least in my experience.
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