Mayor warns Facebook vigilante posts risky (April 8, 2016: VIA Times Argus)
Mayor warns Facebook vigilante posts risky (April 8, 2016: VIA Times Argus) avatar

BARRE — Every now and then a concerned citizen or group of citizens attempts to bring attention to a social issue by taking the law into their own hands, in the form of threats or public shaming.

Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon said in an interview Thursday that he has seen this, and it often takes shape on Facebook.

“If I had to pay a dollar every time I read something that was absurd and incorrect on Facebook, I’d be bankrupt,” he said. “I don’t think it is helpful to be posting comments about whether or not someone is dealing drugs on Facebook. Because quite frankly, if they were dealing drugs, the element of surprise goes away for the police now, doesn’t it?”

Lauzon agreed that these actions often spawn out of frustration and good intentions to help the community, but he argued that it doesn’t help the problem. In many cases, the people involved may feel like police aren’t doing their job; for example, they may believe that they are not doing all they can to catch a known drug dealer.

“Very often, people say that they called the police and claim they (the police) haven’t done a thing. Then, I speak to the chief and he tells me in a very cryptic way that he is aware of that situation. Which means that even though there is some information we are privy to as councilors and a mayor that the general public isn’t privy to, we are not privy to information involved in an active investigation,” Lauzon said.

He said the police could respond by running a police car down an accused drug dealer’s street four or five times a day. But, he said, beside making someone hide for a day, it would do little long-term good.

“It takes literally months to build a case that you can hand to a prosecutor so that he or she can get a conviction, and that’s really what you want,” he said.

Detective Lt. John Merrigan said it is true that if there is already an open investigation on a person, police and mayors can’t say what’s going on.

“The reality is, though, that we might not have something going on. There isn’t always enough for undercover officers to go and infiltrate an area to see if that (drug dealing or another crime) is the case. That’s the hard reality,” he said. “Sometimes citizens don’t feel like they are getting what they need from police, and maybe sometimes they aren’t.”

Merrigan said, because of low resources, police don’t get to investigate everything that they’d like to, adding to the public’s frustration.



Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *