City council members in Huntington Beach, California are considering turning Facebook into the Information Age’s equivalent of the town stocks. Under the proposed plan, those with multiple arrests for driving under the influence will have their mug shots posted to the town’s police department’s Facebook page.
According to The Associated Press, Huntington Beach officials have good reason for wanting to try anything to curb drunk driving: the beach side community has the highest rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities out of 56 similarly sized California cities. In 2009, there were 195 traffic deaths and injuries related to alcohol and 1,687 DUI arrests. About 200,000 people live in the town, best known as for its laid-back surfing lifestyle.
“If it takes shaming people to save lives, I am willing to do it,” Devin Dwyer, the councilman behind the proposal, told the AP. “I’m hoping it prevents others from getting behind the wheel and getting inebriated.”
Dwyer originally planned to post the mugs shots of anyone arrested for a DUI offense, but has since adjusted his proposal to only post shots of repeat offenders. Opponents of the plan say that the plan would violate privacy rights without doing much to lower DUI rates.
“It will have a negative impact on relations with the community, the police department and city officials,” Randall Bertz, an attorney who specializes in DUI cases, told the AP. “What’s next, will they have drunk drivers walk around with sandwich boards? Will it be public flogging?”
The Huntington Beach police department also isn’t too keen to see the mug shots on Facebook. “We see no value in doing that,” said Huntington Beach police chief Mike Barth. “Law enforcement is not about public shaming.”
Other cities and towns have also considered harnessing the power of Facebook to fight crime. In Evesham Township, New Jersey the police department posted mug shots on Facebook from every DUI arrest until the practice was halted after four months by a county prosecutor. And in Honolulu, police officials experimented with a similar program last year, but never fully implemented the policy.
Last week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced that it was partnering with Facebook to deliver amber alerts to users’ news feeds.
The Huntington Beach town council is expected to consider the proposal during a meeting on Tuesday.