Mug Shot Sites — Law Enforcement or Entertainment?

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Meet your newest Internet addiction —

You’ve seen those Just Busted magazines on convenience store counters? Each issue contains hundreds of mug shots with a short back story. The publications have received criticism because mug shots hardly tell the whole story and, in some cases, the accused may be found not guilty. But still, they’re entertaining.

The Pot Shot is in the same vein, except it’s much cruder and it includes personal photos alongside the mug shots. The website’s author goes by the pseudonym Trey Starrs and he’s come taken some heat for the site’s harsh treatment of criminal offenders.

Everything about the site is legal. Starrs shares public information, including height, weight, arresting agency, booking date and charges. However, Starrs also provides commentary that can go a bit overboard. For instance, in one post regarding a Portland woman arrested for hindering prosecution, Trey writes:

“Obviously Sherrie got caught covering for her boyfriend’s crimes but I honestly could care less about that. I just need to know more about that awe-inspiring Ginger mullet. I want to be near it, so I can bask in all of its gloriousness. I bet Sherrie has to spend hours each morning taming that wild mullet to the perfection that is on display in this mugshot. I’ve never actually made love to hair before but if it’s going to happen in my lifetime, it will be with Sherrie’s. If I were the King of Sweden, I would proudly wear this mullet as my crown.”

Let’s not get lost in the adjectives. Vile, insensitive, childish, defamatory, sophomoric. They all fit, sure, but most importantly, they all equate to one thing: Ridicule. At it’s core, The Pot Shot is about placing the village thief before the townspeople for a round of public ridicule. Any part of me that wants to feel sympathy for those targeted by The Pot Shot is persuaded otherwise by the fact these are people who knowingly broke the law. Perhaps society needs more negative reinforcement.

(I think my inner-liberal just died.)

Look, I can’t defend The Pot Shot’s lowbrow tactics. KOIN Local 6, the Portland CBS affiliate, is attempting to interview residents who’ve been featured on the site. Mr. Starrs has appeared on the local independent radio station PDX.FM. There’s a buzz around this site, but there should also be a discussion surrounding its value. At its core, The Pot Shot exists to deter crime. Right? Then again, the justice system and due process exist with the intent of maintain a dignity, no matter how woefully indignant the criminal.

What are you thoughts? Does a site like The Pot Shot help or hurt the legal process?

UPDATED: I won’t say who, but recently, I recognized a young woman charged with DUI whose mug was posted on The Pot Shot. The crazy thing? I recognized her from Mankato, Minn., where I used to tend bar and she used to routinely get booted for excessive intoxication. Looks like she brought her show on the road out to Portland and got caught for same old shenanigans.

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