People can help stop identity theft

April 27, 2007
By

Regarding the issues of trash picking and identity theft in the March 2 and 16 issues of the JP Gazette. Yes, it is legal to sort through trash left on a public sidewalk, and yes, many people, myself included, have found useful items by doing so. However, it is hard to believe that anyone would be sorting though discarded personal papers/mail in order to find, say, bedtime reading. Of course, people going through papers in the trash are looking for data to be used illegally! My concern is why we must passively allow this.

To that end, I propose taking pictures of anyone found engaging in that behavior. (Put those cellphones to use!) Try to get a good picture of the person’s face. If you do, enlarge it, put it on a poster saying, “Seen (the date) on (the street) sorting through papers, etc. Beware,” etc., etc. Post in your neighborhood. Send copies to the police. Ask them to post and be on the lookout. Police are good with faces; they’re trained to be. Send copies to the neighborhoods abutting yours. Ask them to post. Ask local businesses to post copies prominently. Send a copy to the JP Gazette. Ask them to publish. Send a copy to the JP Neighborhood Council, etc. Raise the alarm.

Of course, shredding personal papers is the best way to go to protect yourself, but I’m taking a page from crime watch theory. I don’t think that just locking your door and hoping no one has a big enough crowbar is the way we ought to live. I think being pro-active, raising awareness of your neighbors and making thieves’ lives as uncomfortable as they make us is much more productive. We may not stop crime, but we can sure make it less viable for them to operate here.

And it’s also perfectly legal to stand on a public sidewalk and record activity taking place there.

Connie Cecil
Jamaica Plain