Once upon a time, Americans could rely on the news for objective reporting of events—but nowadays, not so much. For example, nj dot com passed off yet another press release from the cops as the news.1 I addressed this practice previously here and here. Indeed, the site ran a story submitted by the Spring Lake Police Department. And this one involved a man charged with criminal trespass, burglary, and attempted burglary. So, when did the government become a trustworthy and objective source of information? For that matter, why has the site withheld byline credit from the officer who wrote the news release?
To begin, the press release starts on a mysterious note. Indeed, an unidentified witness gave the police an anonymous tip. But no one, except the cops, will find out the identity of the anonymous witness. Additionally, the tip involved a “suspicious male” trying to break into a house. What else did the tip reveal? What time did the police receive the tip? Was it daytime, evening, or after nightfall? Unfortunately, the news release did not answer these questions.
Second, per the release, the witness reported that the burglary had actually occurred 20 minutes before he called the police. But why did the witness wait 20 minutes to call the cops? Additionally, did waiting 20 minutes allow the “suspect” to do anything that might frustrate the cops?
Third, the witness was not at the scene… So, how was the witness certain of the description 20 minutes after seeing a person he could no longer view? Additionally, the question about the time the police received the tip directly relates to this. For example, what were the lighting conditions when the witness saw the suspect? Additionally, how far was the witness from the suspect? Furthermore, how long did the witness observe the suspect? Thus, these questions address the reliability of the anonymous tip.
Fourth, police canvassed the area to no avail. Based on the passage of time and the witness having left, is it surprising the “suspect” was not found?
Fifth, as officers continued to search the area, they learned that other homes were broken into or had signs that someone tried to get in… But how did the police find out about the other homes? Additionally, did those residents call to report these intrusions? Furthermore, what signs did the police find of the attempted break in?
Sixth, through surveillance video, police were able to get a description of the suspect that matched the description given by the witness… So, what happened between canvassing the area to no avail to finding surveillance video?
Finally, based on the surveillance video, the police arrested a man who matched the description. Eureka!
In all seriousness, however, this illustrates why we should not believe everything we read in the news.
Criminal Trespass, N.J.S.A. 2c:18-3
Under New Jersey law, a person commits an offense if,
- knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so,
- he enters or surreptitiously remains in
- any research facility, structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof,
- or in or upon utility company property,
- or in the sterile area or operational area of an airport.
Criminal Trespass, Grading
Criminal Trespass is a fourth degree crime if it is committed in a:
- school or on school property
- research facility,
- power generation facility,
- waste treatment facility,
- public sewage facility,
- water treatment facility,
- public water facility,
- nuclear electric generating plant or any facility which stores, generates or handles any hazardous chemical or chemical compounds,
- in or upon utility company property
- in the sterile area or operational area of an airport
Otherwise Criminal Trespass is a disorderly persons offense.
Criminal Trespass, Penalties
Fourth Degree Crime
- State Prison: Up to eighteen months
- Fines: Up to $10,000.00
Disorderly Persons Offense
- County Jail: Up to Six Months
- Fines: Up to $1,000.00
- Victims of Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCA):
- $50, or
- $100 – $10,000 if crime resulted in injury or death
- Law Enforcement Officer Training & Equipment Fund: $30
- Safe Neighborhood Services Fund Assessment: $75
- Monthly Probation Fee (if applicable): Up To $25
- Court Costs
1 http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2017/01/man_charged_with_breaking_into_spring_lake_houses.html (last visited January 21, 2017)