Minor crimes get ‘major’ coverage


We have long supported the Dunkirk OBSERVER because we understand the importance of a local newspaper and enjoy being informed of local events. However, we strongly object to a front page article (June 28) headlined in large, bold print: “City police arrest five in major sweep.”

Language used in this story reveals the latent racism which grips not just this community but our nation as well, even though we often proclaim ourselves beyond racism. We ourselves are not holding up the persons arrested as outstanding citizens for sure, nor are we objecting to their arrest, but we believe they are due respect as our fellow human beings. They certainly are far from the most harmful people in this community or this world for that matter. Please note the following objections:

  • The staff writer used gross exaggeration in an inflammatory headline. Five arrests were made based on relatively low level crimes. Although drug charges were involved in three of the arrests, these persons were not major drug dealers, not the wealthy kingpins at the top of the pyramid. One of the arrests involved a parole violation, and the last involved a warrant for failure to pay outstanding parking violations. Major crimes indeed!
  • Four photographs were posted at the top of the front page, the primary focus of the paper: one was of a white man, one was a black/Hispanic man, and three were Hispanics, one whose photograph was not included, a Hispanic woman wanted for not paying parking tickets. The article labeled these people as “unsavory elements” removed from our streets. Are we to feel safer now? Neighbors may, but in the wider community, nothing has changed. What the photographs and language have done very well is to shame both those arrested and their families, including children. Indeed the OBSERVER regularly posts photos of people wanted for generally low level misdemeanors and felonies. Think about it.

All of us have been shamed at one time or another in our lives and we hated it. Shaming only sows the seeds of suffering and results in eventual retaliation toward the authority that shamed us. What goes around comes around.

White-collar crime is in the news all the time in this country. American citizens have to a large extent lost faith in the government, mega corporations, and financial leaders who have deceived and cheated the American public in so many ways. Those responsible are often not even named, infrequently arrested, and rarely prosecuted or sent to prison.

When was the last time we saw their photographs in the newspapers, much less on the front page? And, why do we, the American public at large, shrug our shoulders and accept this as “it is what it is”?

Where is the justice in this? Why so much focus on the crimes of the poor that are a drop in the bucket compared to the monstrous crimes committed by those who have real power? Why do we direct our anger at the poor rather than at those who have a real impact on the economy of this nation and our own personal wealth? As a result of the mortgage fiasco, many families actually lost their homes but if justice was served, we missed it.

And, finally, how will we ever live as peaceful human beings if we cannot stop judging and demeaning one another? Will we never stop putting down other human beings in order to lift our own selves above them? Unfortunately, the June 28 OBSERVER article was just one more step in the wrong direction.

Rosie and Marty Sanden are Dunkirk residents.