Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Catch-22 list again, ack

Never mind how Joe Heller might feel about this ugly use of the title of his great novel. I'm wondering who's being served by our annual 22 Days of Prescott's Most Wanted (cue musical theme ripping off Highway Patrol).

If you thought a lot of these mugshots seem familiar, there's little wonder, just look at the dates. Many of them have been on the list for years.

Adam Stevenson, wanted since 2004. Manuel Acosta, 2002. Miguel Franco and Claudio Lopez, 2006. Hector Reyes, 2002. Joel Medina-Ortiz, 2006. Domingo Valdez-Anguiano, 2004. Others have no dates, but I'm sure I've seen them before, and not this year.

Yavapai Silent Witness, which is the primary source of these stories, carries the list. The Courier ran that list on May 1 of this year, and it contained all the same names as were on last year's Catch-22 list, one going back to 1998, one wanted for "prescription fraud," another a probation violation, locations from Holbrook to Wickenburg.

What does it mean when the annual push to "catch 22 felons in 22 days" focuses on the same people year after year? Maybe it means that there really aren't enough bad guys out there to scare us with. Averaged over ten years, that's only 2.2 per year.

I've seen and written about the tilt toward Hispanics we see on this list. Add in that the editors have at least ten years of bad guys to choose from, and the racial-profiling angle really lights up.

But what concerns me more is the suspicion that reportage is drifting over into newsmaking and adjusting public perceptions of reality for political purpose. Cherry-pick 22 uncaught, mostly Latino felons from over ten years, dump their mugshots and precious little else one by one on the front page over three weeks, and you might create the impression among those who aren't paying close attention that there's a lot of crime going on around here by scary brown people. Which spreads unwarranted fear, which sells newspapers and, not incidentally, Republican candidates for office.

Now note today's editorial, defending it as "a new list" of "the most violent offenders currently at large." Prescription fraud. Hmmm.


Anonymous said...

You dont know what your talking about. The people at Silent Witness pick the Catch 22. They coordinate with all local media that matter for PSA's about the 22. The ads run free. The courier just chooses to run them too online. What did the recent editorial call it, conspiracy theory? Steven, you are just as bad as everyone else.

Steven Ayres said...

I believe I wrote that YSW is the primary source. What's your beef, O he-who-is-too-frightened-to-ID-himself?