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EDITORIAL: Anonymous (b)ad campaign

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One of the Crime Stoppers posters that recently popped up in downtown St. John’s. — Contributed photo

“The time was 1:33 a.m. He was holding a can of spray paint and wearing white hightop sneakers. He tagged the building.” — anonymous.

“The time was 8:22 p.m. He was hanging around the stairwell wearing a jean jacket. He assaulted that woman.” — anonymous.

“The time was 5:26 p.m. She was driving a hatchback with a racing decal on the hood. She drove off after hitting a pedestrian.” — anonymous.

“The time was 11:56 p.m. He was walking down the street with his hood up. I saw him rob someone.” — anonymous.

They are almost monotonous in structure: the time, a short descriptor, a crime. White letters on a black background, with the word “anonymous” in red.

The tone is sinister: you’re not safe. The city is not safe. No one is safe. Crime is all around. Look at your watch — it says it’s 10:19. What’s about to befall you?

The signs don’t provide any information. They don’t even identify that the advertising campaign is being done by Crime Stoppers, and they certainly don’t suggest anything close to a solution. There isn’t as much as a phone number for the agency.

So, their goal is clearly attention and unease.

The tone is sinister: you’re not safe. The city is not safe. No one is safe. Crime is all around. Look at your watch — it says it’s 10:19. What’s about to befall you?

It’s a great message to post around the city just as spring turns a corner and tourists start to make their way to town. Maybe we can post some signs saying, “Stay alert for thefts” — oh, wait: the crime rate in St. John’s actually fell substantially in the past year.

Hilarious.

It’s especially hilarious because the route that the ads took to being posted around the city apparently played fast and loose with the rules.

CBC asked about the campaign, called “Operation Anonymous,” when it was put on the May 21 agenda for city council. Once questions were asked, the issue was promptly moved to a private meeting, vanished from the council agenda (according to the CBC, at the request of Crime Stoppers) and was voted on and approved.

City council’s defence? Essentially, that Crime Stoppers is a great agency, the council didn’t really look at the campaign in any detail, and if you have any questions, well, talk to Crime Stoppers.

Buck fully and completely passed.

You can understand the thinking from Crime Stoppers in some ways; how can you run an effective “Operation Anonymous” if everybody knows what you’re doing?

But the signs don’t match the city’s own heritage signage policy, the Downtown Development Commission wasn’t consulted, and the issue doesn’t even qualify for the tight rules about what sorts of issues can be handled during private city council sessions.

So we’ve got another one for them.

“The time was 10 a.m. They had a bunch of black, ominous signs to stick up everywhere. I saw the city help break the rules.” — anonymous.


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