Hair salon Visual Difference robbed at gunpoint

Friday, June 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The owner of local hair salon was robbed at gunpoint Thursday afternoon, along with one of her customers, according to a news release from the Columbia Police Department.

Regina Scott, owner of Visual Difference, 200 S. Old 63, and an unnamed male customer were in the store when the suspect entered and displayed a handgun. The suspect stole Scott's purse and money from both Scott and the customer, according to the release.

Columbia Police responded at about 3 p.m. They are still investigating the case.


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Greg Collins June 12, 2009 | 10:16 a.m.

Political correctness again? Or just lack of trying to get the information?

The suspect is described as a black male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, more than 200 pounds and wearing a dark coat with a hood.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock June 12, 2009 | 10:44 a.m.

Mr. Collins,

This is our policy on identifying the race of suspects:

We will publish descriptions of criminal suspects as we get them from the law enforcement agency, including the reported race of the suspect. We will try our best in EVERY case to get more detailed descriptions by questioning the police and by independently reporting. We will make sure to include the race of all suspects described as white or Caucasian, just as we do the race of those described as black, Asian or Hispanic. BEFORE we publish the race of a suspect, we will make sure the description includes at least THREE other identifying characteristics, such as weight, height, age, hair color and length, scars and tattoos.

(Report Comment)
John Doe June 12, 2009 | 11:10 a.m.

"at least THREE other identifying characteristics"

1) about 5 feet 9 inches tall
2) more than 200 pounds
3) wearing a dark coat with a hood

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 12, 2009 | 11:17 a.m.

And how does this policy serve the public interest? What if a citizen had seen someone matching the description Greg posted near the salon around the time of the crime? If they read only the Missourian, they would have no idea they may have seen the suspect and could possibly provide additional information to the police.

(Report Comment)
Scott Hellebusch June 12, 2009 | 12:23 p.m.

Brown Eyes!

That makes 3 unalterable characteristics...

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock June 12, 2009 | 2:37 p.m.

@JohnDoe -- sorry, that policy description should have said three nonchanging characteristics. In your example, dark coat with a hood wouldn't count since it would be easy to ditch the coat. We wouldn't count hair color or length either, for example, since it would be easy enough to cut or color.

@JohnSchultz -- This policy serves the public interest by not fostering stereotypes and racial divides. If a witness can describe a person's ethnicity, then they should also be able to give other characteristics, like height, weight, scars, etc. etc.
This policy was enacted before I started at the Missourian, but I can tell you what I like about it:
-- It discourages lazy reporting. Vague descriptions do nobody any good (except for the criminal).
-- It discourages the notion that suspects should be identified by race first. In other words, let's get THE suspect, not just put the town on alert to scrutinize a particular minority.

I understand your concern here, Mr. Schultz -- provide all the information with the ultimate goal of catching the "bad guy," right? And certainly that's the whole reason the police release this information to the public -- tips are a big help.

However, when that information has the potential to harm the innocent, is it really a public service?

That's our reasoning. I hope that helps explain why we do what we do.

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 12, 2009 | 5:31 p.m.

The gray area I see with this policy is that while a police issued description is intended ultimately to catch the perpetrator, what potential harm would printing the police report or witnesses descriptions do to innocents? (Guilt by association is formed in the minds of others, withholding reported news for internally created "policy reasons" and avoiding controversy is lame, IMHO.)
In effect ("let's get THE suspect, not just put the town on alert to scrutinize a particular minority.") implies that racial/cultural/statistical factors and patterns don't matter.
Scrutiny can serve in the public's best interest as well. Politically Correct or not...

(Report Comment)

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