At least we won’t have secret arrests

The state Legislature apparently negotiated a way to prevent Gov. Andrew Cuomo from making all arrest booking information secret statewide, except when police have a special reason to release it. Any society with secret arrests is not free.

State leaders compromised and arranged for arrestees’ mug shots to be withheld unless police decide they have reason to release them. We don’t love this outcome but can live with it.

We remind law enforcement and lawmakers that it is often important to distinguish between different people with the same name. For instance, when a Jason Smith was arrested on suspicion of robbing a Tupper Lake liquor store, more than one Jason Smith we know wanted people to know it wasn’t them.

But mug shots can be exploited by people who post them online and charge the people pictured to remove them. Also, if a person is later found to be not guilty, a close-up photo taken on perhaps the worst day of one’s life can still live forever on news websites. It’s easy to see how that is unfair. Even if the person is guilty, it begs questioning whether it is fair.

So we can accept this compromise. We will continue to report local arrests in our police and fire calls on page A3 daily — part of the print edition we do not post on our website.

We know publishing arrests deters crime. That’s obvious due to the calls we have always received from people begging us not to put their arrests in the paper. Many police officers have told us over the years that arrestees’ biggest worry is often having their name in the newspaper’s police blotter.

It’s logical to predict that crime — at least petty crime — would increase if New York state were to prevent newspapers from publishing arrests.

But that’s a minor consideration compared to the big picture. If our state made arrests secret, it would make itself a crime tourism destination. Anyone who cares about his or her reputation and is considering committing a crime would try to do it New York — because even if one got caught, the public wouldn’t be allowed to know.

Think about the politicians, sports stars, actors and other celebrities or public figures who have been arrested. What if you didn’t know? Think about the dozens of leaders of our own state government who have been arrested for corruption and other crimes in recent years. Think about the ones who simply haven’t been caught yet. They would be making a law covering their own tracks.

The next time one of our state leaders gets arrested, people deserve to see their booking photo — but at the very least, they need to know about the arrest.

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