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Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, urged at an Evanston Human Services Committee meeting Monday night that listings of arrests be removed from the city’s website.

The Police Department produces a Daily Crime Bulletin that lists the name, address and age of persons arrested and the charges against them, as required by the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The bulletin is emailed daily to more than 5,200 residents and appears on the city’s website, where there’s also an archive of bulletins for the past three years.

“I don’t know what purpose that serves anybody,” Fleming said of the archive. “I’m a big believer that once you’ve paid” your penalty “there’s no reason for us as a city to continue to advertise that.”

“Legally there’s no need for us to have these online in the manner that we do. Other cities don’t publish them this way,” she added.

Typically proponents of hiding arrest data suggest that having the information available lets “youthful indiscretions” dog people through their lives, interfering with their employment prospects.

But hiding the data also makes it difficult for persons to know — for example — whether a new dating partner has a history of arrests for domestic violence, or whether an employment candidate was arrested for stealing from the till at a previous job.

In a memo to the committee, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said city staff has blocked the crime bulletin archive from indexing by search engines, but Fleming said — and Evanston Now has confirmed — that the crime bulletin data does currently show up in Google searches for a person’s name.

Bobkiewicz said email distribution of the crime bulletin “allows the city to alert residents about crime patterns and other incidents that may affect their safety.”

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she believes that as the city looks for alternatives to arrest, it needs to “make sure young people don’t have things on their record that prevent their advancement later in life.”

The committee took no action on Fleming’s proposal but agreed to leave it on the agenda for discussion at a future meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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21 Comments

  1. I like it
    I don’t like it because I enjoy it. I like the 5 day a week crime report because it let’s me know what is going on in the neighborhoods, especially my neighborhood. I voted for Alderman Fleming. I think she is well grounded and is doing a good job but I disagree with her on this.

    1. Crime report details
      They could theoretically release a crime report that will still “let [you] know what is going on in the neighborhoods” but redact names if their worry is about branding people unfairly for life. I actually think that’s a reasonable approach. So, we know there was a spat of robberies in a certain area and to be extra vigilant — and knowing the suspect’s name doesn’t really change anything. I do think there is some credence to the fact that if somebody, for example, shoplifting in college stupidly and their name appears on google searches having done so, it will impair their ability to get employed. One could argue that’s their own fault and I don’t dispute that (although being an alleged suspect is different than having been found guilty), but there’s also something to be said for second chances in certain situations.

      1. Theoretical
        Hi Bradley,

        Your theoretical crime report would not meet the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

        (But that’s a separate question from how long the report has to stay up on the city’s website.)

        — Bill

        1. Yes, Bill, sorry for being
          Yes, Bill, sorry for being unclear. I was suggesting that the “online report” of criminal activities, which the alderman suggests is not necessary at all from a legal standpoint, would not contain names. I am assuming if they don’t need to even distribute it at all that having a distribution of crimes without names would be allowed (but I could be mistaken). But that the full report which could be requested by individuals contain the full information and thus fulfill the Freedom of Information Act. I understand the court proceedings and arrests are public record.

    2. I think you can know whats

      I think you can know whats going on in your neighborhood without knowing names. It would be just as useful to know the crimes and or that somone was arrested without knowing who. I think its particularly horrible for traffic stops.

      1. names, etc.
        I find it interesting to see if any criminals are from the neighborhood..or repeating offenders, etc. Too bad, but criminals are not the brightest people, on the whole. They should expect to get caught and have their names disclosed….it comes with the wrongdoing.

    3. “I’m a big believer that once
      “I’m a big believer that once you’ve paid” your penalty “there’s no reason for us as a city to continue to advertise that.”

      These are arrest reports, not conviction reports, that detail EPD’s daily arrests/charges. Many of these charges are dismissed without people ever having to pay a penalty.

      Regarding the point about youthful illegal indiscretions not following people through life, today’s police blotter cites arrests of people of the following ages: 55, 23, 21, 65, 43, 27. Most arrests were for traffic violations, one for domestic battery, and one for a violation of an order of protection. This is not atypical from what I have seen.

      I will say as a 9th Ward resident that the police blotter was VERY helpful in our building taking action against drug dealers who were living in our building. Their illegal and dangerous actions affected all of us in the building, and many buildings have policies that the police blotter can easily help inform – not with minor traffic violations, but with major arrests like drug dealing.

      With the amount of drug activity in this community (and guns and violence that goes with it – last month’s murder being a devastating example), I would ask all aldermen, including my 9th Ward alderwoman, to please focus all energies and work on preventing crime by addressing some of these challenging underlying issues rather than covering up records of arrests police make daily.

  2. need some balance
    I hope the arrest and incident report and archives are not completely removed. The public should have easy access to this information. A few years ago there were allegations of criminal activity on Sheridan Square. The city council swooped into action to address the issue by implementing zoned parking for residents on that street. It took just a few minutes to download all of the daily police reports for the prior year, merge them into a single pdf, and search out all cases of prostitution, drugs, cocaine, crack, etc. and find there were absolutely no instances where there was police involvement in those types of incidents on Sheridan Square.

    Also removing the reports from the website will not protect job seekers. Arrests are a public record and employers who do background checks will still find out if job applicants have an arrest record.

    1. Background check vs. google search
      “Also removing the reports from the website will not protect job seekers. Arrests are a public record and employers who do background checks will still find out if job applicants have an arrest record.”

      1.) In some states (New York, for example), it’s actually illegal to discriminate against somebody based on past convictions that have been completed. I don’t know the laws of IL in this regard, but I don’t think that’s the case here.
      2.) Background checks occur late in the process after the candidate is vetted. It’s one thing to go through a process, like a candidate, then find they had a conviction for armed robbery and not offer them a job. (Understandable.) It’s another to google somebody’s name as a potential candidate, see that they were arrested for smoking a doobie when they were in college, and then cancel their interview. (Which can plausibly occur).

      I agree wholeheartedly with you that there needs to be balance. Certainly, it will make no difference for felons convicted of major crimes, but it might for somebody arrested for a small misdemeanor that occurred far back in their life. Doing a background check on somebody’s criminal record as the last part of candidate vetting is different than having some arrest (and not necessarily conviction) come up on the interwebs.

      For the record, I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on this topic. I am simply making an argument for why removing names or not having the online reports could make sense. In general, I like visibility and transparency of information.

    2. Public Arrest Records & FOIA
      Employers will use the internet to do a quick check of a person’s background. If they are truly concerned about new hires or required by statute for certain jobs, they will pull a an Employment Criminal Background Check from the State Police. Oh and BTW, anyone can pull a Criminal Background check from the State Police, just download the form and pay the fee, they are Public Records. You can pull your own, a relative’s a propsective household employee, personal assistant, there are many legitimate reasons to do so. But you must have their pertinent ID information otherwise limit your snooping to the published Police Blotters.

      1. Just saw on the news that IL
        Just saw on the news that IL passed a law making it illegal for employers to ask applicants about their criminal record. One of only 5 states. IL also has an expungement law on the books for certain crimes (one of 9 states), so under certain scenarios, it might be illegal and/or impossible for employers to find out and discriminate against previously convicted criminals.

  3. Too much information
    Why is it necessary to include the names of those who are arrested? Is there a similar email sent if these individuals are found innocent? A list of recent crimes and their locations is sufficient to make residents aware of what’s going on in their neighborhood –

    1. Community shaming is a powerful tool
      Why share the names? Bringing shame to your house can be a bigger deterrent for people in a small community. Sometimes more than spending time in police custody. Puts skin in the game for not just the perpetrators, but the parents (if perpetrator is a minor).

  4. Those who are arrested have NOT paid a penalty

    Wrong. Those who are arrested have NOT paid a penalty. Evanston residents HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW who’s been arrested and it’s easy to find on the city website. What purpose does the arrest list serve? The community sure would like to know who’s been arrested, especially on drug charges, violent crimes and burglaries. BTW- the arrest list on the city’s website does act as a deterrent. If you don’t want anyone to know of your arrest then OBEY THE LAW and don’t get arrested! How does the Evanston community benefit by not putting the arrest list on the city’s website?

    1. let’s not be naive
      Have you never heard of someone being arrested in error? Obeying the law doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you won’t be arrested.

  5. Actions have consequences
    Why hide what you don’t want to know? Will hiding this information solve the problem?

    Maybe some people think twice before doing something illegal but if we “hide” this information, they may act differently.

    TP

    1. Sounds like Council way to hide crime
      I assume the Council and others want to make Evanston sound safer than it is. Thus they will expect to get better reviews for the city.
      Hiding records of crimes/criminals only means residents will know less about who does these crimes and be lulled into thinking walk, driving, biking, home security are not a problem.

      1. Evanston “slogan”
        That’s been a pipe dream for years from the 4th floor…to make Evanston the most livable city in America. Wasted expenditures, high taxes, overpaid employees, crime, expensive homes, etc…….that one sentence is not a reality. Pretending there are no gangs, not much crime, etc. just ticks a lot of people off…and it misinforms people who may want to live here. I’m not saying that other cities don’t havethe same types of problems, problems, but there is no way that Evanston could ever be the most livable city…it’s far from it.

    2. Have you seen neighboring
      Have you seen neighboring towns police blotter/crime reports that are posted on-line? They contain so much more information and details about not only the crime committed, but also much more – including photographs!- in the arrest record. Take a look to see what else we can ask to be included.

      http://www.skokiepolice.org/p2c/daily_bulletin.pdf

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