Routines and Mugshots

How do you start your weekday morning? Does it include a small caffeinated coffee with a touch of cream and sugar? How about rolling out of bed, slipping on the running shoes, and motoring out the front door for that three mile run?

People in general are creatures of habit. We follow predictable patterns. Routine helps us stay organized and makes us feel safe. Police officers know that behaviors are predictable. Just ask an officer what his/her least favorite question is when while he is sitting in a patrol car temporarily blocking a road.

Probably one in five drivers will stop in the middle of the road, further disrupt traffic, and ask the officer something to the extent of this: “I am trying to get to (insert work/home/school/a friend’s house), and this road is the only way I know how to get there. Will you tell me another way?”

Unfortunately, many criminals know humans are predictable as well. We leave the house at the same time on work days. We walk the dog at the same time and follow the exact same route.

One activity that is disappearing from the routine of most Americans is reading the newspaper. Declining readership and fewer advertisers have forced many newspapers large and small to cut staff and in some cases, cease operations.

Traditional newspapers have struggled to compete with the Internet. If they use password protected sites, people will simply go to free sites for information. If the papers post information for free, the paid readership and advertisers complain.

Well, I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, but part of my morning routine is reading the news and blog information online. What content would make me want to go to a newspaper website that is not national, but is away from my hometown? I think the St. Petersburg Times newspaper website at Tampa has discovered a fantastic attraction to drive traffic to their frontpage.

What is this big carrot? Mugshots. Yes, those pictures of persons arrested in the previous 24 hours are a big hit.

The Smoking Gun website has developed quite a niche for celebrity booking photos--so why not a local site of picures of persons arrested? It provides a service to the locals so they can see which neighbor/co-worker/ex-dating interest was locked-up the night before, but for us crime geeks, the site has lots of arrest statistics.

Want to know how many people in one part of Florida over the age of 70 have been recently arrested in the last day or how many defendants are over six foot five? This site provides that information for you.

Not all of the charges are listed on the site, but a little research can fill in the missing pieces. For instance, Nicole Mason-Suares' not so happy looking picture appears on the site as I am writing this post (and oddly she looks similar too missing person Brianna Maitland).

Clicking on her picture (she is charged with False Verification of Ownership), you can then review the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department’s booking report and see that there are three listed charges: 1) Aggravated Battery on a Person>65 Years of Age; 2) False Verification of Ownership (I am guessing that means she tried to pawn something that was not hers); and 3) A possession charge.

A quick google search reveals more about Ms. Mason-Suares’ criminal history.

In 2008, she was tackled and restrained by an elderly home owner who caught her wandering around in his Florida home. She was charged with armed burglary, aggravated battery on a person 65 or over and possession of burglary tools. Comparing the current list of charges with this history, my guess is that charge one and three are historical while number two is the current offense.

Nonetheless, it makes for interesting reading and I could see how the police may benefit from citizens seeing all of the mug shots. First, people looking at the site may contact authorities after recognizing a defendant as someone who was involved in other crime in the community. Second, citizens may see a familiar face, but know the person under a different name—this can also aid police in identifying additional aliases used by the defendants.

One of the primary reasons that folks read local papers is to learn about crime in their jurisdiction that would not be posted elsewhere. Also, people love to know what authorities are involved in or “the goings on” of their community. I think having a local mug shot database is an innovative way to provide the locals with plenty to talk about and us out-of towners with a good way to start the morning--by putting faces with the names of defendants involved in last night’s police activity.

And pardon me, while I finish off this bowl of Lucky Charms and look at more of last night’s arrestees in South Florida.


Ashley said...

Thanks for the goodluck wishes on my blog.... Your writing is very interesting I suspect I will frequent it often.

I'm off to write!

Expat From Hell said...

You might be able to take the writer out of the cop, but you can never take the cop out of the writer. You are a great combination - keep up the good work, and the good blogs! Enjoy your Lucky Charms - still remains my favorite cereal after all these years.


mappchik said...

My morning routine includes following links from my breakfast (fruit & granola) blog reading. Following your link headed me off into a guessing game. In trying to guess the charge on 25+ photos, I only got a couple right.

Funny thing was, when I read the charges, none of them came as a surprise. They all seemed to fit the photo. A laidback looking older fellow in a Hawaiian shirt was picked up for open container. A woman whose posture and expression oozed "attitude" was being held for contempt of court.

I wonder if more newspapers will begin doing things like this. It might help drive traffic high enough to keep their advertisers happier with a combo print/web package.

Now, I really must back away from the computer, and get on with the rest of the morning routine.

Slamdunk said...

MC--I played that game without realizing I did it. Thanks for the free psychological help.

fayezie said...

considering you're into criminal justice, perhaps that fuels your interest in "this morning's mugshot"? ha ha I'll have to give that one a try tomorrow morning...

Slamdunk said...

Fayezie: Glad I could steer you into wasting part of your morning as well.