We Have Less Privacy than We Think

There is a system called P2C (Police to Citizen) that is in use in a variety of towns across the country.  You look up your local police department’s website and see whether or not they offer it or a similar system.  I was wondering whether there was a police report on an event that I had been told had occurred, and I didn’t believe the person who told me.  P2C offers an interesting service to people: you can search their database to see whether people have gotten certain kinds of traffic tickets, like DUI, or are under investigation for a crime. There wasn’t a police report on the incident that I was told had occurred, but I learned that the person who told me about the alleged incident was under investigation for fraud.  I also learned that someone who I was considering hiring to trim the trees in my yard had been convicted of domestic violence.

There are over 3800 entries on the “wanted” list in my town, and the vast majority are for people who failed to appear in court or failed to pay their fines.  Suppose that half of the entries belong to people with more than one nonpayment or failure to appear for traffic tickets, loitering, theft, or other misdemeanors. There’s still about 2000 people who have issues wth the police.  This is about 2% of the population, and probably about 4% of the adult population.

I have mixed feelings about this system.  In some ways, it is just an electronic verson of the police blotter, but if you have a common name, it’s easy to make a mistake and think that someone is in trouble with the law who isn’t. One thing that helps is that the entries have the person’s age and other descriptors, so you can tell John Jones who is white and 25 from John Jones who is black and 50 years old.

4 thoughts on “We Have Less Privacy than We Think”

  1. What if there is some sort of pending misunder standing?

    Here’s a case in point: somebody who owns a few local restaurants showed up in our police blotter. There was some sort of issue with a company she purchased goods from; they were saying she didn’t pay for the items and she was saying it was determined by gentleman’s agreement that she is to pay when she wishes.

    Suppose you are that person…. would you want this showing up in a computer database until this thing is hashed out in court? It can do damage to you your business and a trillion other things, if it turns out it was gentleman’s agreement for payment.

    I have mixed feelings about these open to the public databases — even the public record of who bought what house and where — that’s been a mainstay for years and years. Suppose somebody you do not like decides to find out where you live and goes to your home? It happened to a friend of mine — the person went to the town hall, got the address and took a trip out to that person’s home.

  2. In a strange irony I got into a conversation about the lack of privacy online with the man I am interested in. He thinks this is dangerous because people can find out anything they want from others. What I didn’t tell him was I looked him up to see if he had ever been married or had kids (never on both cases). I have my reasons for doing this and while it does invade his privacy I did because I was curious. Of course I could ask him but feel funny asking. Then again people who have known him years told me that he is never married/childless (Catholic too which was also important)so I really didn’t need to search. I will search people I know often online because I am bored.

    However it does beg the question of what should be available and what shouldn’t. Criminal offenses? maybe but what if they are wrong? How about credit? I don’t think so nor do I support credit checks for jobs.

    Sometimes the backgrounds are wrong. I looked myself up and several listed my age wrong. Others did what is strange and had me listed with an exboyfriend’s last name. I lived with him for a year and he told people I was his wife so maybe someone listed me under his last name? We never had a joint account or bought anything together so not sure how this came about and it’s rather odd.

  3. NWP, you’d better check that state’s law, because in some cases, living together as man and wife EVEN WHEN ONLY ONE PERSON DOES THE REPRESENTATION gets you to common law marriage, and you might need a divorce that you didn’t expect to need. There is little interest on the part of credit agencies to correct incorrect information.

    The other side of criminal law is the potential to have misdemeanor and lower (like traffic ticket) offenses expunged from one’s record or to have one’s record sealed after a certan amount of time or by participating in a diversion program for first-time offenders, so you might get someone who beat up a girlfriend (or boyfriend) and has anger issues or is a thief, and has been convicted of the offenses but got it expunged from their records becaue they didn’t do it again for a period of time, or at least didn’t get caught.

    I had one judge use my driving record as a reason to suspend/dismiss a traffic ticket subject to having six months of no tickets after my appearance in court. He was doing this for everyone who had four or more of six possible “good driving” points that the commonwealth of Virginia awards at a rate of one per year. You get one point for every year that you don’t receive a ticket for a moving violation. It cost me court costs, but that’s all. The fine would have been at least $100 more, and that was in 1992.

  4. Dude, privacy is a huge issue. One way of getting around the issue of having someone find out where you live from public records is to have your home owned by a family trust that DOES NOT contain the family name. Call it the Acme family trust if you must, or pick a landmark of the area or somewhere else in the world. The problem is that most people don’t plan ahead in this way.

    If a person who claims that they are owed money, labors, or goods by a second party and both parties agree that these things are owed to the first person, although maybe not in the same amounts, and the second person has been given an opportunity to cure the situation, either by paying up or entering into a payment schedule, and the second person takes no action, I think that it is fair that the second person’s civil or criminal charges appear in public. Theft has two elements: taking and keeping. The second person accepted the first person’s goods in good faith, and then didn’t deliver or is a “slow or no pay” situation. It probably wouldn’t have taken much in the way of small, regular payments to keep the man happy. Most business terms are net 30 days unless there is an explicit financing arrangement in place, and if the lady doesn’t have the “pay when you can” in writing, she is in default on the contract, which is a civil matter.

    Even if the “Pay when you can” status is in effect, it is hugely to the interest of the person who is in debt to make regular payments. It becomes a criminal matter if the man can prove that she never intended to pay for the items, and her failure to pay over a period of time, particularly if no payments have been made, argues for theft or fraud on the woman’s part. Were I the judge, I would ask the guy if he could prove that he had made delivery, and if he could, I would find her guilty of fraud, then suspend the conviction subject to her making full restitution, to include interest, within six months, and the payments would have to be received on time and be equal or greater than 1/6th of the original balance plus interest due, unless they owed less than that at the final payment. If she paid it off on time and in a timely way, the charges would be dismissed.

    There are two things to consider in this case: the so-called “reasonable man” standard and whether there was a previous relationship (i.e. family, friends, prior colleagues) between the two people. The reasonable man standard tells you that the guy expected to be paid in a reasonable amount of time, probably 30-60 days. If they were in purely a business relationship, things are much clearer, and the probability of the “pay what you can when you can” schedule becomes that much less probable.

    For what it’s worth, civil matters tend not to hit the police blotter. The only way that the person who received the goods and is not paying for them can be cited ina criminal matter is if he or she admits to receiving the goods and not paying for them when the police make an inquiry.

Leave a Reply