A controversial law-enforcement tactic used to deter crime is targeting shoplifters, reviving the debate over the civil liberties of people who are singled out for an offense they may or may not have committed, says the Arizona Republic. Avondale, Az., publicizes photos of adults arrested and accused of shoplifting, even if they haven’t been convicted. Officials say they’re helping merchants by cracking down on shoplifting, which peaked at 94 reports in October.
The American Civil Liberties Union and defense attorneys question whether the practice infringes on citizens’ rights. Alessandra Soler Meetze of the Arizona ACLU called it “part of a growing trend” to penalize people who are arrested, no matter if they’re cleared later. El Paso; Chicago; and St. Paul, Mn., already post suspects’ photos online to curb DUI, prostitution, domestic violence, or public indecency. Though Avondale’s Web site states “all persons are entitled to the presumption of innocence,” the disclaimer does little to dissuade people from assuming the suspects listed are guilty, said a defense lawyer.