Campus split on releasing ‘bad guy’ photos

Koran Addo

Deep in the basement of Coffman Union is a wall with pictures of people who could pose a threat to the University community.

Unofficially called “the bad guy wall,” some people on the wall are wanted by police, some have been convicted of repeat offenses and some might be mentally unstable.

What all of these people have in common is anonymity from the public.

University police have identified approximately 20 people on campus who they are either looking for or feel could put the community at risk. Their identities, however, are only available to police and security monitors.

Some people on campus feel these pictures should be available to the public.

Finance senior Jeff Ganser said he thinks the University should provide a Web site where students can go online and see these people.

“We get numerous e-mails from the University about a new dean or student of the month,” he said. “It would be helpful to get an e-mail where we could be easily directed to pictures of these guys.”

Since learning about the bad guy wall, sophomore Ashley Corning said her outlook on safety has changed.

Corning said she occasionally walks by herself at night, but now she will be more cautious and try to walk with friends.

Other students said they remain unconcerned.

First-year student Nicky Grimmius said she walks across campus alone every night to her car in Dinkytown.

“I know I shouldn’t (walk alone), but it’s easier. I know there are bad people out there and I worry, but not enough to do anything about it,” she said.

Ben Schnabel, program director for the security monitors, said there are several reasons why the pictures are not published.

“There is a difference between public and private information,” he said. “It depends whether the person is an active suspect in an investigation or not.”

Sophomore Sarah Nystrom said she is unsure whether the pictures should be published.

Nystrom said she has heard of situations in which members of the public have lashed out against perceived criminals in the community.

University police Lt. Chuck Miner said although police might be looking for someone, it does not necessarily mean that person is a threat to the community.

Some of the people are homeless and are on the wall because police have cited them for trespassing a number of times, Miner said.

In cases such as these, Schnabel said these people can be less dangerous to the public than the average resident.

“Some of these guys are not confrontational at all; they don’t have a place to live and they just want a place to stay,” he said.

Schnabel said he favors publishing pictures of people who are repeatedly proven to be a threat to the community, but that there are ethical questions to consider.

“Where do you draw the line?” he said. “Pretty much anybody can be dangerous; it depends on the circumstances.”

The issue of the bad guy wall has to be put into perspective, Schnabel said.

“There are probably kids on campus who have been convicted of drug offenses and served their time,” he said. “Is it fair to plaster their face all over campus? Is it necessary?

“Again,” he said. “Where do you draw the line?”