Wednesday, Feb. 12 — The Lansing Police Department generated a flurry of negative comments on Facebook today when it released security camera images of a woman it needed help identifying — without saying why or what the alleged crime was.
Turns out the woman is a suspect for shoplifting, LPD spokesman Robert Merritt said in an interview this afternoon.
However, Merritt declined to provide any further information on the case, such as when and where the alleged crime took place. “I don’t think that’s relevant right now,” he said.
Merritt also downplayed the seriousness of the case: “This isn’t the crime of the century."
Retail fraud is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine of not more than $2,000, or both. This case involves shoplifting, but retail fraud can also include misrepresenting prices of goods. The crime deals with goods between $200 and $1,000.
“We’re just trying to identify her right now. There’s no conspiracy theory,” Merritt said. He added that “people have been contacting me like crazy” following the vague Facebook post.
The LPD somewhat clarified why it was looking for her a couple of hours after it received Facebook comments such as this one, from David Tibergien:
“Asking citizens to out someone who is not accused or suspected of anything is not ethical. It would not be ethical for any news organization to post this image, either. Sorry, but you’ve got it wrong this time, LPD.”