EDITOR’S COMMENT: Secrecy will not stop vandalism spree

Damage at Fletton Recreation Ground. Photo: Joanna Bacon
Damage at Fletton Recreation Ground. Photo: Joanna Bacon

A number of readers have questioned the PT’s coverage of the recent vandalism attacks in local parks. We have covered a spate of graffiti in Ferry Meadows, the mindless destruction of trees and wooden furniture in a number of locations. We also reported on a covert police operation launched to tackle the problem and track down the perpetrators. Some readers felt that coverage had in some way encouraged the attacks and that revealing a ‘covert’ police operation ruined its chances of success. We always take genuine questions and feedback from readers seriously so I wanted to explain why we disagree with both points.

Firstly, the vandalism had been going on before the Peterborough Telegraph published its first reports, whatever motivated individuals to carry out such idiotic crimes publicity had nothing to do with the decision to start doing it. The attacks were cynical, deliberate and in many cases must have involved the use of tools. Our reports highlighted the problem and public awareness and therefore increased vigilance is undoubtedly one ofthe best chances of catching or deterring the perpetrators.

The report on the ‘covert’ police operation followed social media comments by police officers involved in the operation. Clearly by the time the officers went public on social media, and we therfore reported it, the covert part of the operation was complete and officers clearly wanted to publicise it. Obviously, the police are not in the habit of tweeting live from operations they want to keep secret. Again making it clear to individuals that patrols and other operations are happening is a deterrent.

Our readers have a right to know what is going on and many had contacted us with images and reports of vandalism in parks. The fact that we covered this spate of attacks has only enhanced the possibility of information coming to light about the perpetrators.

There are occasionally instances when the PT is asked not to publish material we are aware of because it may jeopardise a police operation. Recent cases involving the prosecution of child sex rings in the city for example. We delayed publication for a number of weeks because police told us it would jeopardise their opportunity to get some victims to come forward at that stage. We were, of course, happy to co-operate and published our investigation and court reports in full once police had finished their work. So there are, albeit rarely, times when it is right for the media to delay publication for very valid reasons... but the park attacks was not one of them.