Police agencies need to find better balance in informing public
A recent report by the Yuma County Sheriff's Office likely sent chills down the spines of every parent in Yuma County.
An unidentified man attempted to snatch a 6-year-old child from her sister, age 17, while the two were walking back from a school bus stop.
The suspect, according to YCSO, approached the two girls and attempted to pull the 6-year-old from the 17-year-old. The teenager hit the suspect in the face with her keys, at which point the suspect ran away.
The situation in and of itself is horrifying, and quite brazen. If not for the vigilance of the teenager, the situation could have been much worse.
However, compounding the problem is the slowness of the Yuma County Sheriff's Office in releasing the information to the public.
The incident, according to the news release, was reported at 5:45 p.m. on Monday. However, the information wasn't released to the public until 11:04 a.m. Tuesday.
That's a big delay in a situation where someone could strike again, where parents, schools and caregivers need whatever information is available to help protect the children in their care.
It begs the question: Why the delay, when every minute counts in getting an apparent predator off the streets? What if this man decided to try again somewhere else in Yuma, only there wasn't a protective sibling or parent nearby — they didn't know to be extra cautious because the information wasn't out in the public sphere?
It's a delicate balancing act for police agencies between the public's right to know and the agency's need to protect an investigation. And there is time needed to investigate — YCSO needs to verify that the incident actually occurred and to gather information on the suspect, a task that can be tricky when there are understandably upset children involved.
However, this is one of those situations where it's critical to let people know a problem exists.
YCSO — and public safety agencies in general — need to review their policies going forward, to make sure that information is released in a timely, appropriate fashion. Sometimes, it can be a matter of life or death.