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Googling the Trail of a Serial Rapist

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.

Crime 204

theodp writes "Innovative Interactivity has a behind-the-scenes look at the Washington Post's On the Trail of a Serial Rapist series. Information Designer Kat Downs details her experience designing and building the impressive interface for the series, including the use of Google Maps to track the rapist. Wary, perhaps, that it might encourage vigilantism, the WaPo stopped short of allowing readers to add their own input to the maps and urged anyone with additional information to contact the police."

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Remember those dumbass old cops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944128)

Who would put a map up on a wall and stick thumbtacks into. What a bunch of tools.

Re:Remember those dumbass old cops (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945072)

No, but I remember Fahrenheit 451: "Let each one stand at his front door, look, and listen..."

While it's not a bad idea at all for cops to use the tool, I can see how the slope can get greased-up good and slippery if this thing were ever mis-used.

firsty post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944130)

i used google maps to make this post, and I sketched it on a napkin first.

first suckas!

To Catch a Steve Jobs (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944140)

Homosexual internet nerds are hot on the trail of the world's worst intellectual rapist.

Steve jobs anally and intellectually rapes his victims, and leaves them screaming for more.

More groupthink! More insane restrictions! More Buttsecks!!

Some black guy... (5, Interesting)

will.perdikakis (1074743) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944204)

He was 21ish and 5'7" in 1997 and 6'1" and in his 40s now?

I understand the DNA links, but the other cases?

Re:Some black guy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944296)

LOL

Re:Some black guy... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944354)

We should put out an APB on all local masters of disguise.

Re:Some black guy... (2, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944406)

Anything can happen in America! Why Michael Jackson was born a poor black boy [everyonelo...candal.com] and died a very rich woman - or close to it. [flickr.com]

Re:Some black guy... (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944598)

Anything can happen in America! Why Michael Jackson was born a poor black boy and died a very rich woman - or close to it.

Man, I was SO hoping you'd throw a reference to The Jerk in there. Way to disappoint, Mr A. Clown. ;-)

Re:Some black guy... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944654)

He had to change into a white woman. Everyone knows that the police frame rich black men for crimes they didn't commit [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Some black guy... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944784)

My blood sugar is a bit low and I forgot the "white" part in front of woman - D'Oh!

Re:Some black guy... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945598)

I'm not a fan of Jackson's music, just not my thing, but have a little sympathy:

1) The burns he suffered during that pepsi commercial left him nearly as disfigured as darth vader - he had to wear wigs and get plastic surgery on his face to attain a semblance of normalcy.

2) He's not white out of choice - he had vitiligo - the trademark white glove was actually used to cover up the first signs of it that could not be concealed by regular clothing. The whole thing about him sleeping in an oxygen chamber was him trying to cure the vit, its a common (but mostly ineffective) treatment. I know a girl who was similarly depigmented and even though she turned out to be the most exotically gorgeous woman I have ever met, the 20 years or so that it took for the disease to kill most of her melanin were psychologically brutal and left her emotionally scarred and she didn't even have to deal with all the extra baggage of being famous and a role model for millions of underprivileged kids.

So, cut the guy some slack. I don't know anyone who would trade all the shit he ended up going through for the financial success his musical talent brought him.

Witness unreliable (3, Funny)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944428)

The problem is that at the best of the case , the witness are unreliable. In a stressful situation like rape this is much worst. So 5'7'' or 6'1'' could be the same guy. Really. Now tehre are still problem with DNA matching, as it seems that collision over a huge population can happen (so you can't try to match against a whole database), so I would not trust that too, unless it is to ground a case when the suspect is shown to also have been at the place.

Re:Some black guy... (3, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944900)

He wasn't measured at 5'7" and then measured at 6'1" later. The victim's statement described the attacker as 5'7" in one case, and another victim many years later described the attacker as 6'1".

If you only look at cases with DNA evidence, two cases right next to each other in 1997 have a victim describing the attacker as 5'6", and the next case has a victim describing the attacker as 5'10". DNA says this is the same person.

It would seem that either the DNA evidence is completely flawed, or the victim's guesses at the attacker's height is flawed.

Re:Some black guy... (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945178)

Well she was being raped at the time, so perhaps we can give her a pass on not having an exact recollection of his height and other physical attributes.

Re:Some black guy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945484)

That's funny, my wife does her midterms during sex... it's not taxing on the brain at all :P

Re:Some black guy... (2, Funny)

feepness (543479) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945054)

He was 21ish and 5'7" in 1997 and 6'1" and in his 40s now?

Time flies when you're having fun.

I'll take (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944214)

Therapist for $400

Re:I'll take (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944474)

oh man made my day, if only i had points to mod parent up!

Re:I'll take (1)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945158)

"It's ok, it's pronounced "ah-nahl rah-pist"."

It's not the pronunciation I'm worried about.

Re:I'll take (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945256)

"It's ok, it's pronounced "ah-nahl rah-pist"."

Only if you are a Kennedy.

Not very impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944218)

Looks like a simple widget that I could build in a couple of days.

Re:Not very impressive (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944324)

The slice of bread I'm eating isn't very impressive either, and I could easily emulate it in my own kitchen, but that doesn't have much bearing on how useful it is or if I can enjoy it or not.

Re:Not very impressive (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944410)

Baking bread is not easy; baking store-bought bread is even less easy. The problem is that when you stop making failbread, the barely-tolerable product coming out of your oven is a thousand times better than the garbage you get from the store.

Re:Not very impressive (0, Troll)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944608)

well plus store bought bread doesn't take a day while your waiting for it to rise.

Re:Not very impressive (1)

McNally (105243) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944704)

Baking bread is not easy; baking store-bought bread is even less easy. The problem is that when you stop making failbread, the barely-tolerable product coming out of your oven is a thousand times better than the garbage you get from the store.

Baking truly great bread requires some real skill. Baking surprisingly decent bread [amazon.com] can actually be very simple and require no skill at all. I realize we're seriously off-topic, but posted for other DIYers here on Slashdot who (like me) don't necessarily live within convenient traveling distance of a great bakery. Go to your library, check it out, give it a try..

Re:Not very impressive (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944614)

I love that TFA states that they hired a cartographer to make the map... A programmer, sure. But a cartographer? Really?

yeah it's stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944238)

That cheerio was beggin for it.

Vigilantism (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944326)

Tracking people in this fashion is unethical, even if it is a rapist. Leave it to the authorities -- this is vigilantism, nothing more. And that's not something that we can tolerate in an information-saturated society. Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong. There should not be exceptions, because the moment we allow that line to be crossed, we damn all of us to the potential to have our privacy invaded under false pretext.

You want to help? Volunteer your services to a responsible authority like the local police. Work with them and follow their ethical guidelines. Believe me, they want citizens to come to them and the system functions best when done under professional and ethical oversight by a disinterested party. This kind of behavior, however well-intentioned, harms those efforts and undermines the entire system of justice.

Re:Vigilantism (5, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944426)

If somebody has maliciously assaulted you, tracking them down is not unethical. If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.

Re:Vigilantism (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944574)

And if we allow random individuals to each make their own judgments about who deserves to be hunted down, then we've reverted to anarchy. That's the trade-off of living in a modern civilization: you agree to give up your right to randomly hunt down whoever you think deserves it, in return for being assured that nobody else can randomly hunt you down to satisfy a grudge, either. The police exist for exactly this reason, and the occasional (and even occasionally systemic) abuses aside, they do a reasonable job of it.

Re:Vigilantism (0, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945182)

That's the trade-off of living in a modern civilization: you agree to give up your right to randomly hunt down whoever you think deserves it, in return for being assured that nobody else can randomly hunt you down to satisfy a grudge, either.

Sometimes that's just not a fair trade off. There are people who out there who are getting away with murder [go.com] . The law is powerless to do anything. Killing a few of them would do a lot more good than bad.

Assuming parent is not trolling (u never know..) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945398)

What happened to "it is better 10 guilty go free than 1 innocent gets punished"?

Who are you to judge who is guilty or not, and maybe you and your family should be murdered, if you make a wrong judgement in your vendetta for revenge and blood?

Blood-feuds is a mark of less advanced societies. Violence breeds violence. They can last for generations, and usually develops to become worse and worse with time and violent events, not better.

It is not necessary EVERY crime gets punished. But that notorious criminals gets locked up, and get time to rethink their strategies in life. Sometimes they get educated in prison and become better human beings after a few years. Sometimes not.

Your own lust for revenge does not count in this context. You should learn to deal with your own emotions, or you might get stuck in a vicious violent cycle yourself! Wether you are police or criminal, you will be no better than your counterpart then. Not a very wise move..

Re:Assuming parent is not trolling (u never know.. (0, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945502)

When notorious criminals are rewarded with million dollar bonuses instead of even the *threat* of legal action, we are so far from a functioning justice system that the alternative is indeed more appealing. Our justice system protect those who should be jailed, and jails those who should be protected. No justice system at all would be better.

Re:Vigilantism (5, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945302)

in return for being assured that nobody else can randomly hunt you down to satisfy a grudge, either.

Except that you are given no such assurance. The only assurance you are given is that the police will try to track down the person who hunted you down after the fact. The police in the United States have no legal duty to protect you. The Supreme Court has said as much [nytimes.com] .

The police exist for exactly this reason, and the occasional (and even occasionally systemic) abuses aside, they do a reasonable job of it.

Tell that to all the rape/murder victims out there. The sad reality of the situation is that you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your own well being. The police sure as hell aren't.

Re:Vigilantism (5, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944578)

If somebody has maliciously assaulted you, tracking them down is not unethical. If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.

Speaking as someone who was sexually assaulted, yes, tracking the person responsible down is unethical. In my case, they filed it under miscellany and never interviewed him, and less than a month later, three more cases turned up and the guy skipped state. The police never followed up, and so he's very likely still out there. I did the responsible thing and contacted the authorities once I got out of the hospital. Granted, I did it while staring at the floor, stuttering, and being held by a friend, but I did do it.

Can I say I'd do it the same way if it happened again? No, not really. It was a traumatic experience and I won't sit here and say if given half a chance I wouldn't have returned the favor at the time. But I don't think two wrongs make a right, and feeding this guy to a woodchipper because the police wouldn't do their job, while maybe emotionally fulfilling, isn't right. So I have to stand by what I said -- vigilantism is not a public service. A public service would be my day in court, along with the others who that son of a bitch hurt. So I do understand the motivations behind such behavior on a very personal level. I don't agree with it.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944732)

Speak for yourself. When someone denies themselves the chance to turn themselves in and confront their crimes and when police/courts drop the ball, sites like this are a service to society. I'm in no way encouraging vigilantism and neither is this site. Bravo for them.

Re:Vigilantism (3, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944884)

How is determining a person's location equivalent to vigilantism?

Re:Vigilantism (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944960)

How is determining a person's location equivalent to vigilantism?

In method, not result.

Re:Vigilantism (2, Interesting)

eXFeLoN (954179) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944980)

Personally I disagree. Feeding the person that assaulted you to a wood chipper it quite the ethical choice. I'm not pro-vigilante, but if the system in place does not work, then we the people, must implement one that does.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945104)

Speaking as someone who was sexually assaulted, yes, tracking the person responsible down is unethical.

Why? You explained your circumstances, but I don't understand your reasoning. If anything, it's the police who ignore you who are unethical. It's not unethical to do their job when they won't.

Re:Vigilantism (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945260)

Why? You explained your circumstances, but I don't understand your reasoning. If anything, it's the police who ignore you who are unethical. It's not unethical to do their job when they won't.

I can't (nor should I be allowed to) assume police powers because the person or group that has them doesn't want to excercise them. That's lunacy. If I want to track this guy down privately, using lawful channels, and the police are willing and able to prosecute -- it's a win for everyone. But if they don't, my only lawful recourse is to go to the media (weren't interested), protest (one person with a sign didn't exactly make an impact), write letters (got form letter replies and courteous brush-offs), and try to help the other victims to find him and build a case against him (only found one of the three I knew about, and that person didn't want to rehash an old wound).

Don't kid yourself -- I tried. I did more than this website did, and with less fanfare. But I never crossed the line of going public. The risk of someone being misidentified and harmed by that isn't one I am willing to take, then, now, or ever. I want him as bad as anyone else who's ever been raped. That doesn't give me the right to endanger innocent lives to correct that injustice.

Re:Vigilantism (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945350)

But if they don't, my only lawful recourse is to go to the media (weren't interested), protest (one person with a sign didn't exactly make an impact), write letters (got form letter replies and courteous brush-offs), and try to help the other victims to find him and build a case against him (only found one of the three I knew about, and that person didn't want to rehash an old wound).

Just because it's not lawful doesn't mean it's unethical. When the law itself (or those enforcing it) is unethical, the only ethical action may be to break the law.

Re:Vigilantism (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945460)

Just because it's not lawful doesn't mean it's unethical. When the law itself (or those enforcing it) is unethical, the only ethical action may be to break the law.

I don't believe the police were acting in an unethical fashion, I simply think they have limited resources.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945232)

But I don't think two wrongs make a right, and feeding this guy to a woodchipper because the police wouldn't do their job, while maybe emotionally fulfilling, isn't right.

Isn't it though? The laws and justice system evolved originally to stop family feuds turning bloody and escalating, so justice would remain in the hands of the king, as in the code of Hammurabi. If the justice system fails badly, clearly, and obviously, along with the enforcement system, I personally would have no moral qualms about ensuring the punishment is exacted myself, by whatever means neccessary, up to and including a sharpened piece of metal. But only after exhausting all other possible avenues.

And I bet anyone else he had subsequently hurt wouldn't complain much either.

Re:Vigilantism (4, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945326)

And what happens when a DA declines to prosecute you and the guy's family decides his fate was undeserved and comes looking for you for vengeance? Where does it end?

Part of living in a civilized society is giving up your "right" to vengeance and letting the authorities take care of the problem. If they don't, the solution is to get better authorities, not to take the law into your own hands.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945464)

And what happens when a DA declines to prosecute you and the guy's family decides his fate was undeserved and comes looking for you for vengeance? Where does it end?

We had a particularly egregious case here in Ireland where a lonely and blameless old farmer (Nally) out living by himself in the countryside snapped after being terrorised once too often by criminals, so he shot the man ("frog" Ward, a real piece of work whose rap sheet included threatening Guards with a slash hook) and walked after him beating him about the head and face as he tried to make his escape, and I quote "he bled like a badger", went back into his house, reloaded, came out again and shot him dead.

After a brief trial he served a grand total of one year in prison. The public uproar over the case, mostly in favour of Nally, and ensuing discussion led to stronger laws being enacted for home defence, so that householders aren't required to run from their premises in the case of intrusion, but can use lethal force to defend themselves.

Part of living in a civilized society is giving up your "right" to vengeance and letting the authorities take care of the problem. If they don't, the solution is to get better authorities, not to take the law into your own hands.

As it turns out, you can have both.

Re:Vigilantism (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945546)

so that householders aren't required to run from their premises in the case of intrusion

Move to the United States. In virtually all American states (even the left-leaning ones like New York or California) you aren't expected nor required to flee from your home in the face of a violent intrusion into it. I find it absolutely despicable that there exists systems of government that require people to flee from their homes in the face of violence.

Break into an occupied home in the United States and you have a decent chance of being shot. Perhaps this explains why the United States has a lower rate of "hot" burglaries (burglaries where the home is occupied) than many other countries?

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945286)

Debate aside, my condolences.

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945558)

You are right, and unfortunately tou didn't get served well by your local law enforcement. If the incicident is recent you should consider teaming up with the other victims to file a class action lawsuit against your local agency. That will get them to sit up and take notice, and maybe, just maybe do their job the next time someone is assaulted.

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31945564)

Unethical? Maybe. If you subscribe to that code of ethics.

Immoral...might be a better argument.

With all due respect--if you caught and punished the guilty person when the police didn't--there would be *nothing wrong* (by many systems of ethics or morality). They are guilty by the identitive property--not because a court says they are. That's just an instance of an identical/homophonic word riding along as a label or tagging attribute and being misapplied to a broader concept. Being guilty, and having a gavel slam down when a jury says guilty and it goes on your record are two different, disparate, and hopefully strongly correlated events.

The police and court part are merely the rule of law and justice--(strongly correlated as mentioned above), but not casually definitive for ethics (personal, professional, or social) or morality.

If you threw the guilty party into a woodchipper, and they were guilty, and they knew it--under many very reasonable theories of justice you'd have done *nothing* wrong except deprived the state of their monopoly upon violence and justice. Given that the state chose violate the social contract in your case by refusing to act to 'rectify' you--I guarantee I personally wouldn't hold you responsible for acting as if they defaulted and tore up said 'social contract'. But that's just my code of ethics. Oh, wait, are you trying to force *your* code of ethics onto me and claim it's okay because "my code is society's code" ?

Two wrongs don't make a right. But if you think you can't do the right thing by doing something slightly wrong, you're living in a false dichotomy--and I know you've been around long enough to know better even if you want to resort to trite catchphrases to try to embody the misguided social policy that it is never acceptable to do the wrong thing to right something. Much like all policies--it is a wonderful guideline. That should be inspected, and discarded on a case by case basis by someone when it is inappropriate.

Re:Vigilantism (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944586)

If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.

Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions.....

Re:Vigilantism (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944906)

Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions.....

I don't, but I can't defend my own rights by sacrificing somebody else's. He's entitled to the same legal and ethical protections I am, whatever his past or present behaviors. There's a simple and time-honored tradition this society has of dealing with malefactors -- imprisonment. Besides, I know what happens to rapists in jail. I think throwing the predator in with the other predators would sate my thirst for vengance.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945092)

but I can't defend my own rights by sacrificing somebody else's

Your attacker forfeited his rights when he decided to force himself upon you. In all 50 states you would have been well within your rights to shoot him dead on the spot.

He's entitled to the same legal and ethical protections I am

That's why we have due process of law.

There's a simple and time-honored tradition this society has of dealing with malefactors -- imprisonment.

If you support the death penalty as I do then I would argue that it should apply to rapists as well as murderers. If you don't then we won't see eye to eye on this -- but I've never understood why murder is regarded as a capital offense but rape is not.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945218)

"If you support the death penalty as I do then I would argue that it should apply to rapists as well as murderers. If you don't then we won't see eye to eye on this -- but I've never understood why murder is regarded as a capital offense but rape is not."

Err, because the result of a murder, is a dead victim. End result of a rape is a damaged victim, but still breathing, and with us on planet earth above room temperature.

Given the choice, I'd guess most people would choose to live to see another day.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945376)

Err, because the result of a murder, is a dead victim

So what? The Federal Government makes it a capital offense to engage in espionage or treason. Do you take issue with that? If that's ok, then why not rape? Why not kidnapping?

The victims of those crimes (and third-party bystanders in many US jurisdictions) are entitled to respond with deadly force in the United States. As a society we've decided that those crimes are so egregious that their victims should be allowed to kill their attackers in the course of defending themselves. I honestly don't see why the state shouldn't have the same ability after according the individual due process of law.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945606)

"The victims of those crimes (and third-party bystanders in many US jurisdictions) are entitled to respond with deadly force in the United States. "

Really?

I wasn't aware we had widespread 'good samaritan' laws? For what crimes and what jurisdictions is a reaction of deadly force required?

Is espionage/treason really punishable by death? I thought Ames [wikipedia.org] was still alive?

Oops..just read that article...it is punishable by death, but they apparently can plea it down.

I dunno..I'm guessing that these charges would be punishable by death IF the espionage resulted in the death of our agents...in that case it would be death for essentially 'murder' by proxy?

Re:Vigilantism (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945174)

A person, continuing to violate laws and harm people doesn't have rights. They don't have a right to trial, to remain silent or anything else.

Rights are only established once they've been apprehended and in safe custody. However, someone shooting people from a tower has no rights, because they don't care about other people's rights.

This is the problem with our society today, we are too emasculated to actually state what is obvious, for fear of offending those that need to be offended.

You know those High Speed Car Chases? Those would end as soon as police were allowed to shoot to stop/kill the assholes putting everyone else's lives in danger, just the same as they are allowed to shoot someone wielding a gun and shooting it randomly into the air.

I'm sorry, but not catching a bad guy because we might, just might, hurt their "wittle feewings" (awww) or our sense of "fairness" or whatever is just as evil as the bad guys raping girls and killing people.

If they surrender immediately upon contact with law enforcement, great, if they try to get away so that they can continue their crime spree, then fuckem, all bets are off.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945328)

Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions

Yes, that would be people who believe societies function best when people aren't working solely in their own interests or who throw away the law whenever they disagree with it. Would you have a problem with my saying "I think anyone who would take it on themselves to put others out of 'our' misery should be tracked down and shot in the head?"

As a father, I worry each day about my young daughter and what could happen to her. The fact is, I have a list of things I would do to anyone who harmed her. Things that terrify even me and I would never speak them aloud. But, as an intelligent, rational person I'm also aware that pedophilia is a disease, one that takes control of the person. I don't offer that as an excuse for their actions, but a reason. It's the simple answer to just say "put 'em in prison, let them get gang raped, that'll straighten 'em out. And, if it doesn't, shoot 'em in the head." The problem is, that's not how you build a JUSTICE system, it's how you build a REVENGE system.

Re:Vigilantism (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945492)

But, as an intelligent, rational person I'm also aware that pedophilia is a disease, one that takes control of the person

That's bullshit rationalization. Human beings are one of the few (the only?) animals with the higher brain functions to override our primal instincts. I don't ascribe to the theory that someone is forced to molest children. That person made a choice and if caught will have to live with the consequences.

The problem is, that's not how you build a JUSTICE system, it's how you build a REVENGE system.

Why do you assume I was advocating vigilantism? I'd actually like to see rape made into a capital offense, as it used to be. Then the state could put these lowlifes out of our collective misery after according them due process of law as required by our Constitution.

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944466)

Wrong (IMO), if you really want to help, work on privacy issues, it is the only long term solution.

If you don't want the public to track you, don't put your data (be it photos, location, etc) on the internet.

I would also suggest that you DON't help out LEO as that is a sure fire way to jump up to the top of the suspects list.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944716)

Agreed. "We can't find this killer anywhere but this guy keeps coming in with new info on the case that he 'discovered'."

Prepare to go to jail.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945288)

"I would also suggest that you DON't help out LEO as that is a sure fire way to jump up to the top of the suspects list."

And if, God forbid, you are ever brought in for questioning by the police....shut up, and lawyer up!!

This is especially true if you are truly innocent. I've heard this over and over...and saw a great lawyer presentation on this on a youtube video (search for it, I forgot who this guy was).

The police are NOT there to help you, or prove you innocent, they are trying to pin the blame on someone...hopefully the right one, but you gotta be careful. Anything you say, even if you are innocent, can be twisted against you.

Shut up...lawyer up.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

adbge (1693228) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944528)

I think you are confused. The locations of violent crime (in this case rape) is simply presented to the public electronically, through Google Maps. This is just parsing existing data regarding crime to an easier to display form and presenting it to the public. There's nothing wrong with informing the public about crime, where it has occurred, what happened, etc. It is, in fact, a good thing.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945022)

Mod parent up.

This is not, as girlintraining describes, "tracking people." This is merely mapping the locations of crimes that have occurred. Tracking the rapist would include mapping out all known locations of the rapist exclusive of the crime scenes. That means mapping where the rapist stops for gas, pays highway tolls and picks up lotto tickets. Which, by the way, are legitimate LEO methods for tracking down known felons, but this is not what the Washington Post is doing. Years ago there was a string of rape cases across the country at universities and colleges, but they were all in different states and different jurisdictions, so nobody ever connected them together. Someone finally figured out after this went on for quite awhile that these rapes may be connected, and that they all occurred when a certain comedian on a college circuit would perform at that school.

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944548)

"You want to help? Volunteer your services to a responsible authority like the local police."

You obviously don't know how utterly incompetent and corrupt the police really are.

I envy your ignorance, but I cannot condone it.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944634)

Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong

So being tracked electronically for other purposes is ok? It's wrong to track down a serial rapist but it's acceptable for Choicepoint to track my every living move? It's acceptable for my credit card company to build profiles of my purchases and sell them to marketing companies but not acceptable for a citizen to track a convicted criminal?

The things we choose to get outraged about....

Re:Vigilantism (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944740)

So being tracked electronically for other purposes is ok? It's wrong to track down a serial rapist but it's acceptable for Choicepoint to track my every living move? It's acceptable for my credit card company to build profiles of my purchases and sell them to marketing companies but not acceptable for a citizen to track a convicted criminal?

You're bringing unrelated material into the discussion. This is about answering whether it's okay for a private citizen or group of citizens, to excercise police-like surveillance over another individual, or group of individuals. The examples you outline have different ethical and legal implications, as well as motivations.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944998)

You're bringing unrelated material into the discussion

*shrug*, you are the one who said that tracking people "in this fashion" for a "personal agenda" is wrong.

This is about answering whether it's okay for a private citizen or group of citizens, to excercise police-like surveillance over another individual, or group of individuals.

Yes. The information is all in the public sphere. All this site is doing is collecting it and providing a centralized place to distribute it. I presume you've heard of the first amendment?

Re:Vigilantism (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945146)

Yes. The information is all in the public sphere. All this site is doing is collecting it and providing a centralized place to distribute it. I presume you've heard of the first amendment?

Yes. Have you heard of the reasonable restrictions of that amendment? For example, inciting a riot or encouraging criminal activity is not covered.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945366)

I'd like to know how mapping the location of crimes is in any way, shape or form, considered tracking an individual. Just because you know where they had committed crimes doesn't mean you know where they are. Also, how is this mapping of crime scenes going to incite a riot or encourage criminal activity?

Re:Vigilantism (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945416)

For example, inciting a riot or encouraging criminal activity is not covered.

I fail to see how repeating information that is already in the public domain constitutes incitement to riot.

"John Q. Rapist moved into the neighborhood at 123 Main St. Keep your kids away from him" <--- free speech
"John Q. Rapist moved into the neighborhood at 123 Main St. Let's go burn his house down!" <--- not free speech

Re:Vigilantism (1)

gotpoetry (1185519) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944698)

Please spare us the slippery slope straw man. The TFA is a well done online version of America's Most Wanted that happens to use the Google Maps API. Thanks to the newspaper industry catching up to modern technology and the police departments and the FBI finally using shared crime databases there is a slightly better chance of catching this animal.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944836)

Please spare us the slippery slope straw man.

I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Especially since, historically, the downfall of democracy has started with a well-intentioned attack on a minority perceived as a threat by taking away their personal freedoms and/or citizenship. It's not a right if it can be taken away.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945024)

It's not a right if it can be taken away.

The Constitution doesn't say that your rights can't be taken away. It says that they can't be taken away without due process of law. Otherwise prisons and laws that prohibit felons from owning guns or voting would be unconstitutional.

Especially since, historically, the downfall of democracy has started with a well-intentioned attack on a minority perceived as a threat by taking away their personal freedoms and/or citizenship.

Hyperbole much? Tracking sex offenders does not make the United States the 2nd coming of the Wiemar Republic.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945266)

I have no idea how aggregating someone's track record in rapes with a few pictures, a Google map widget, a time line and a brief description of the events is the same as.... umm, care to list the well-intentioned attacks on a minority that preceded the downfall of a democracy? The Reichskristallnacht doesn't count since it can hardly be called well-intentioned. Neither can the Civil War in pre-Franco Spain, Mussolini's coup d'etat in 1922, or Pinochet's more violent version in 1973. Heck, even the Roman Republic fell because of a coup-d'etat.

So historically, the biggest threats to a democracy are a politically engaged military, followed by an apathetic or bought-out voting public. Not the equivalent of an online police-blotter.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944720)

> Leave it to the authorities

Yeah, they're doing such a great job...

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944758)

Didn't the police force have something like 13 years to figure this out?

Maybe a little vigilantism is necessary when the law enforcement types are too busy or incompetent to solve crimes. And besides, up until 2009 I thought rape wasn't considered a real crime.

Or at least, that's the feeling I got from the Catholic Church.

Re:Vigilantism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944770)

Because police never have a personal agenda

Re:Vigilantism (3, Informative)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944782)

Really? Are you advocating a criminal-victim right of confidentiality or something? As a criminal, I have the right to privacy of my crimes?

I get the core of what you're saying--vigilantism can be bad--but I see absolutely nothing wrong in this case. The police (and other shows like America's Most Wanted) regularly share far more information about ongoing cases than is on this webpage. It's a neat little mashup sure, but that's all. Who knows if more victims will come forward after recognizing something in the description, or a friend/acquaintance of the rapist realizes something is going on, etc?

Re:Vigilantism (4, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944816)

The only tracking that they're doing is tracking where the crimes took place. Go look at the site, all that's there is a timeline, with a Google map, street view, and text blurb for each attack. It isn't like they've followed the guy on the subway and found out where he lives, they're simply organizing all the data that was doubtlessly available from other sources into a single, easy to follow graphical representation.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945058)

The only tracking that they're doing is tracking where the crimes took place. Go look at the site, all that's there is a timeline, with a Google map, street view, and text blurb for each attack. It isn't like they've followed the guy on the subway and found out where he lives, they're simply organizing all the data that was doubtlessly available from other sources into a single, easy to follow graphical representation.

Which is still a form of surveillance. Again -- I stand by what I said earlier: If these people want to help, do it with the authorities, not for them. And if they do nothing, call the media. There are ethical channels that can be followed to obtain justice which do not include going public. The moment you put information like this into the hands of the public and tag it "rapist", you're coming dangerously close to inciting people to vigilantism. At the very least, you're enabling it.

The intent is good. The methods of data acquisition is good. The research is good. Publicizing it is not good -- that is the option of last resort, when all other methods have failed. And even then, the risk can be great. This kind of thing is inprecise -- it's entirely possible that a private person with access to this information could misidentify the criminal and harm an innocent person. That is why we leave these things to the authorities.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945226)

Which is still a form of surveillance.

Surveillance [google.com] is the careful watching of someone, especially by an organization such as the police or the army

The moment you put information like this into the hands of the public and tag it "rapist", you're coming dangerously close to inciting people to vigilantism.

So, such information should be withheld from the public because we can't trust that they won't abuse it?

it's entirely possible that a private person with access to this information could misidentify the criminal and harm an innocent person.

If someone does that they'll be held accountable for it. That's why we have a criminal justice system.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945462)

> And if they do nothing, call the media.

This being /., I guess I shouldn't even ask if you RTFA. Here, try this:

It's probably the largest crime to be tracked via Google Maps so far, and, if successful, it will act as a blueprint for future three-way collaborations between law enforcers, the fourth estate, and the public.

It is HOSTED by the media. The data was PROVIDED by "the authorities". What was your complaint again?

Re:Vigilantism (3, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944886)

The authorities have no duty to protect anyone: http://www.firearmsandliberty.com/kasler-protection.html [firearmsandliberty.com]

The best thing to do about crime is to stop it yourself whenever you see it going on. If you have the nuts for it, you can become a bounty hunter and hunt people down yourself for a living.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944920)

It would be unethical to track an individual we suspected of doing something wrong. It's not unethical to track "the rapist." We're not assuming anyone's guilt, we're tabulating a list of crimes and evidence related to the crimes.

except when the "responsible authority" sucks (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945032)

http://michiganmessenger.com/36610/arrest-of-most-wanted-sex-offender-raises-policy-questions [michiganmessenger.com]

in a nutshell: lansing michigan got a $900,000 federal grant to monitor sex offenders. but a journalist, spending five minutes using google and facebook, found an offender working at a daycare center... an offender on the Michigan State Police's most-wanted fugitives list! and someone the lansing police describe as "always one step ahead of us"... since 2007. the fucking pedo is posting on facebook with his real name and picture... posing with children on his fucking lap, working at a fucking daycare center

seriously?!

the only justice that exists in this particular case is vigilante justice. and i agree with you: vigilante justice sucks. however, vigilante justice is better than NO justice

therefore, it is nice to know vigilante justice is out there to pick up the slack, for when the responsible authorities are outright BUMBLING INCOMPETENTS who never heard of google search and waste NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND of our tax dollars... doing what exactly?

put it this way: the responsible authorities better do their fucking jobs, or we'll do it for them

Re:except when the "responsible authority" sucks (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945120)

the only justice that exists in this particular case is vigilante justice. and i agree with you: vigilante justice sucks. however, vigilante justice is better than NO justice

That wasn't vigilante justice -- that was a responsible media figure doing some good old fashioned journalism, finding the guy, and then turning that information over to the police, and once he was captured, published the details in a lawful fashion. I have no idea how that $900k was spent, or if it even exists, and if it's in your state maybe you should look into that. For all we know it could have been to train officers do to exactly what this guy did. But this is entirely hypothetical without a citation, and increasingly off topic...

Re:Vigilantism (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945076)

If the rapist feels his privacy has been violated I'm sure they'll happily take down the site if he just tells one of the police officers that fact.

More seriously, which part of that site do you possibly think is an invasion of anyone's privacy?

Do you also think that newspapers should not report on criminal cases at all?

Re:Vigilantism (2, Informative)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945152)

There is nothing wrong with being vigilant. It has often been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

In many places around the country the police force is either being used to collect fines to make their budget and/or their force is being cut. In fact, an Ohio county Judge [google.com] has urged its citizens to buy guns, be vigilant and set up community watches.

Judge Alfred Mackey of Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court advised residents Friday to be vigilant and arm themselves because the number of deputies has been cut about in half because of a tight budget. He also urged neighbors to organize anti-crime block watch groups.

Sure, people can take being vigilant too far, but so can authorized police.

Even with a modern police force they need all the help they can get.

A few years ago I helped the police catch a person who stole a disc golf basket from a local park. A yahoo news group was alerted to an ebay posting of a disk golf basket without a pole, which means it was probably stolen. I knew a basket had recently been stolen from rarely played course. I googled the ebay user name, found his myspace page with pictures of him playing at that same course. The information I gathered was forwarded to the police and within a week the person was arrested.

If I had just filed a police report that the basket had been stolen the person would have never been caught. Using the newsgroup as a sort of open-source intelligence resource made a huge difference in catching the thief.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945154)

This kind of behavior, however well-intentioned, harms those efforts and undermines the entire system of justice.

I seem to remember that you're European; there is little justice in the US. I made friends with a young cab driver about twenty years ago, and he was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. The man who shot him served two years in prison. Meanwhile, another friend's brother spent five years in prison for loaning a drug dealer $1000.

My home was burglarized once, and the burglar was caught. Not only did they let him go in exchange for ratting on a different dope dealer, they let him keep all my stuff!

So much for justice in America. If someone rapes my daughter, he'd better hope the cops catch him before I do, because I have little faith in the US "justice" system. Count yourself lucky that you live in a civilized country.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945254)

Why don't you move if you don't consider the United States a "civilized country"?

BTW, I've read your journals. This may sound harsh, but do you suppose the fact that your house was broken into has anything to do with the type of company that you keep?

Re:Vigilantism (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945216)

Newspapers have always reported crimes. Yes, it can encourage vigilantism, but that's outweighed by the benefits of a well informed public. That's how a free society works: you don't limit access to information anymore than you have to. The public will often misuse that information, of course. That's an argument from A less free society, but we all know how that works out.

I don't think the WaPo was concerned about vigilantism when they decided not to crowdsource the map. The obvious issue is all the unreliable crap you can get that way. Wikipedia comes to mind.

Re:Vigilantism (1)

imidan (559239) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945312)

I don't think that it's clear that this is vigilantism, at all. What Downs has done is designed a multimedia interface to a series of newspaper articles in the Washington Post. It looks like she's essentially put the existing information into an effective presentation format: across the top, the attacks are organized by time, and you can click on one to get a summary, some detailed info broken out, and a map and a photo. It's a fancy, interactive infographic: The Washington Post page with the flash app on it [washingtonpost.com]

I'd agree that tracking a specific person's movements and making a lot of their personal information available is generally a bad thing. But, in this case, we're not even talking about a specific person. This is an abstraction: The East Coast Rapist. There's nobody for a vigilante to attack. There's no name, no address, nothing more than what's appeared in the newspaper about the guy. And I don't think it's undermining our justice system to have a clear layout of factual information like this.

flashmobs-r-us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944328)

anyone else noticing a pattern of evolution here....

Looks like it'd make a great tool for LEO (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944338)

Package it as a product that detectives could use with their cases, have it tie into a database warehouse/backend with existing data. Sometimes a bit of data visualization goes a long way.

Re:Looks like it'd make a great tool for LEO (2, Informative)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944790)

I imagine they already do this...

You know those license plate scanners the police cars have now? I can guarantee those things are going in a database as such:

[License plate ID][Time & Day of scan][GPS coordinates]

They could then go and use that data to prove or disprove you were or weren't in a certain area at a certain time.

Hell with enough of that data, they could probably generate reports of your driving habits.

Re:Looks like it'd make a great tool for LEO (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#31945572)

As a libertarian, this scares the hell out of me.

As a process improvement professional, this sounds like a damned cool thing to have access to!

facebook 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31944470)

Ahhh just facebook the individuals like that mafia hitman.

Calling Card?!??!?? (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 3 years ago | (#31944966)

What I've notice reading the additional details they've found on this guy. It appears that he like to take a sh*t at he crime scene. Maybe DC correctional need to go back and look at some parolees files and see which one of these guys like to leave feces as calling card that could narrow things a bit.

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