EDITORIAL: Better informed, better protected

Surrey RCMP’s release last week of a security video showing an acid attack on a woman in Newton is disturbing on a number of levels.

First and foremost is the horrific nature of the attack itself, in which a man threw acid at Tammy Sinclair’s face after engaging her in casual conversation behind her ATV store.

Sinclair’s neck and shoulder were burned by what is believed to have been muriatic acid, and she lost some of her eyesight.

To watch the casual nature of the encounter – so mundane at the start – and then see the sudden viciousness is chilling indeed.

One can feel nothing but sympathy for the victim of this appalling crime.

But what is also disturbing is the more than five-month lag in releasing the security footage.

It seems the video has jogged the memory of more than one person, and police have received a spate of tips since the clip was made public Friday. One wonders how many other tips would have been forthcoming if it had been released sooner.

In a time of heightened awareness of crimes against women in Surrey – the apparently random beating death of Newton hockey mom Julie Paskall still in the forefront of people’s minds – would it not have been in the public interest to highlight this attack with greater urgency, before others could potentially be at risk?

Perhaps officers were respecting a desire for privacy on the part of the victim. Perhaps they were following the time-honoured protocol of holding back information that only they and the perpetrator could know. Perhaps, too, police had every expectation that other leads would produce a suspect, but the release of the video suggests earlier lines of inquiry weren’t working.

It’s likely true that the public, including the media, have an imperfect understanding of police methodology. But it seems – as in the recent incident in White Rock in which an RCMP emergency-response team descended on a quiet neighbourhood in search of a suspect, only to brush off questions with a ‘nothing-to-see-here’ approach – that police have an imperfect understanding of the public’s need, and right, to know, for their own peace of mind.

More than a rubbernecking nuisance, an observant public ought to be considered a resource for our forces, particularly in an age of cellphone cameras and the potential for lightning-quick exchange of information online.

The latest call for information on a five-month-old crime seems a further acknowledgement that police could be more in step with the public they serve.


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