Authorities reject calls for media silence
9 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Despite concerns about copycat crimes, Dutch police and prosecution authorities have dismissed calls for a media silence as motorists face a series of stone-throwing incidents at motorway viaducts. The public prosecution department (OM) even drew nationwide attention in the crimestopper show Opsporing Verzocht on Monday night to a recent incident in the Dutch capital.
9 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Despite concerns about copycat crimes, Dutch police and prosecution authorities have dismissed calls for a media silence as motorists face a series of stone-throwing incidents at motorway viaducts.
The public prosecution department (OM) even drew nationwide attention in the crimestopper show Opsporing Verzocht on Monday night to a recent incident in the Dutch capital.
It asked the public for assistance to track down the suspects accused of throwing a stone onto the A10 Amsterdam ring road. The projectile hit the windscreen of a truck that was carrying 40,000 litres of petrol.
OM spokesman Robert Meulenbroek said fears of copycat behaviour did not play a role in the department's decision to focus attention on the incident.
"You assess on a case-by-case basis whether media attention can serve as a means of investigation. We felt this incident was so serious that we called in the help of the public," he told newspaper De Volkskrant on Wednesday.
And a spokesman for the national police force KLPD said investigations in 1998 and 1999 indicated that one to two stone-throwing incidents were reported to police each week. The actual number of incidents was believed to be higher.
Media attention at the time was scanty and the spokesman said the current media attention was only sparked by a fatal incident in January when a woman was killed on the A4 motorway after a paving stone smashed into her windscreen.
Four suspects have been arrested and accused of murder, but a series of repeat incidents have followed, sparking widespread media attention and public concern.
A spokesman for the Dutch Police Institute, Cees den Bakker, said greater media attention of the crimes does not mean there are more crimes committed.
Despite being convinced that media attention will inspire a few youths to throw stones, Den Bakker said the media spotlight will prompt others to re-think their actions.
The Volkskrant also quoted a former Amsterdam police spokesman Klaas Wilting who admitted that he had feared 10 years ago that media publicity about football hooligans would lead to increased problems.
Wilting also said he had always chosen in the past — whenever possible — to keep bomb scares secret to avoid a series of hoaxes after the event.
A criminologist and criminal law expert with the Radboud University in Nijmegen, Ybo Buruma, said there have been no serious studies conducted into copycat behaviour.
The academic admitted that it was often speculated that media attention on certain crimes can lead to a copycat effect. But Buruma quickly dismissed such speculation.
Instead, the criminologist told the Volkskrant that research has indicated a link between media attention of certain crimes and the prevention of criminal activity.
"News reports can certainly have an educational value provided that the consequences for culprits are explicitly stated."
Nevertheless, media attention on the frequent bomb threats made against the Lower House of Parliament in The Hague could spark a flood of similar hoaxes. But the effect would only be temporary.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news