Crime reporting is actually a highly responsible and specialized job, involving the shifting of the grain of truth from the chaff of rumors and misinformation. Chances are that a trainee reporter would begin his/ her career in a newspaper/ TV channel as a Crime Reporter.

  • Crime ReportingOne would say anything that upsets law & order and hinders good governance – murders, robberies, burglaries, homicide, fire, fraud, blackmail, kidnapping, rape, etc – is Crime. Public interest created by crime stories is enormous and that explains to a large extent why no news medium can afford to ignore it without damaging its circulation and credibility.
  • Crime is a part and parcel of urban culture and therefore automatically it becomes an integral part of a newspaper as it is a newspaper’s duty to inform the readers of what’s going on. Care must be taken however, never to glorify Crime related news (as happened with the sensationalization and glorification of Charles Shobraj).

 

About the Beat

  • As with most beats, the best crime reporters are those who manage to develop the best sources. Today’s crime reporters have the advantage of vast electronic resources, including improved access to expert sourcing and direct access to information.
  • Reporters should seek respectful cooperation, not admiration, from the police. And if the police do their job well, we should respect them in return.
  • A crime involving prominent people is bound to receive attention.
  • Crime reporters spend their time covering the exciting but stressful routine of police work. If you are a reporter, who has been put on a crime beat, the first thing you need to do is – understand the way the police works.
  • For example, in Delhi, the police department is divided into various districts –each headed by an officer of DCP level. So it would make sense to go and visit them, one by one. Go to them, exchange your business cards and let them know that you represent so and so newspaper. Don’t start asking them questions from Day 1. Let them get comfortable with you. Then, you may want to further extend your umbrella – meet and get introduced to additional DCP’s and ACP’s.
  • While you are on a particular news coverage, say Jessica Lal murder case – which happened in Mehrauli, you’d also get to meet the inspectors of those particular thanas.
  • Once you have done that, it would also make sense to get introduced to the PRO. He will not be of a major help, in terms of stories, but at least he will make sure that you are kept informed about routine stories.
  • And moreover, if you develop a good relation with them, they at times go out of their way to help you – say fixing up an appointment with a senior police officer. At the Police headquarters you get to meet other senior officers as well – Joint Commissioners of Police, Additional Commissioners and the Commissioner of Police.
  • There is another important person, whom you should call everyday. Usually he is of the rank of a Sub-Inspector.
  • Make a habit of calling him at least twice a day. Once he knows you he will call you and let you know on time the events and the incidents. Once you have done this, you must read and know details of major crime stories, which have been reported since the last one year.
  • You must also understand laws pertaining to crime reporting. Certain stages of police investigation require secrecy in the public interest. So in crime reporting investigation work should be done very carefully. While reporting any murder or suicide case or any such violent death, it is advisable to report only what is known. One should avoid speculation in the absence of an official verdict.
  • A reporter must use extreme care when copying information from a police blotter and especially in the use of complaint sheets. Both of these records frequently contain misspellings of names and incorrect addresses.
  • In addition, complaint sheets often contain misinformation, exaggerations and from time to time, outright lies.
  • They usually are a form of interoffice correspondence between the complaint desk and the investigating officers.
  • Reporters should verify everything in the complaint sheet with the investigating officers before making use of complaint sheet information. The reporter also is expected to use good judgment in handling information from police sources if publication would aid a suspect in escaping, prevent a fair trial or cause other difficulties.
  • The length of a crime story is usually determined by the seriousness of the crime.
  • Other factors that add paragraphs and increase the size of the headline are the prominence of the persons involved, the place of the crime, Unusual circumstances and incidents of human interest.
  • Often one of those factors leads a reporter to write a feature lead, or an entire feature story, about the incident instead of a straight news story.
  • In selecting facts to go into the story and in the treatment of those facts, the reporter must be careful to observe the ethics of the newspaper.
  • How much gory description should be included in the story of a particularly gruesome murder.\

Types of Crime

  1. Crime ReportingOffences relating to the human body:

(a) Murder, assassination

(b) Culpable homicide-act done with knowledge that it is likely to cause death, with or without intention doing so.

(c) Causing death by rash or negligent act.

(d) Abatement of suicide committed by child, insane, idiot, delirious or intoxicated person.

(e) Attempt to murder.

(f) Attempt to commit suicide.

(g) Criminal force like

  1. assault such as to deter a public servant from his duties,
  2. to commit theft,
  3. assault on woman to outrage her modesty
  4. to dishonour a person or to wrongfully confine.

(h Kidnapping, abduction, slavery and forced labour.

(i) Rape.

  1. Offences against property:

(a) Theft

(b) Extortion – blackmail, obtaining illegal compensation_

(c) Robbery and dacoity.

(d) Criminal misappropriation of property.

(e) Criminal breach of trust

(f) Receiving stolen property, or assisting in its concealment or disposal.

(g)Cheating by impersonation.

(h) Criminal trespass.                                                      ,

(i) Arson/fire.

  1. Offences relating to documents and trade property:

(a) Criminal breach of contracts of service.

(b) Defamation or printed matter known to be defamatory.

(c) Criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance.

  1. Obstructing Justice:

(a) Interfering with an officer.

(b) Perjury.

(c) Bribery.

(d) Contempt of court.

  1. Conspiracy in Crime:

(a) Accessory before act.

(b) Accessory after act.

  1. Others:

(a) Terrorist violence.

(b) Genocide.

(c) Manufacture, possession or sale of illegal beverages and drugs.

(d) Disturbing peace, group fighting, riots.

(e) Sexual crimes.

(f) Criminal rebel.

(g) Accidents.

(h) Police encounters.