Thursday, October 2, 2008

Arcane Blog Discussion About The 4th Precinct "Highlights" (If You Wanna Call 'Em That)

Photo By John Hoff, September 25, 4:30 PM approx., Fairview Park

The 4th Precinct sends out an email list of "highlights" every week, though perhaps the word "highlights" reveals much about police humor.

Featuring shootings, stabbings, bizarre and tawdry incidents, the highlights reveal incidents which are...

...ugly, but not major enough to be featured on the mainstream media. I mean, SO WHAT if bullets were fired from a car, but somebody was only INJURED? It doesn't rate time on television, it doesn't rate a newspaper article. It does, however, make the highlights.

I have thought about simply putting the highlights on this blog, but fortunately there is a Minneapolis Crime Watch blog which takes care of that. Check it out, click here. I'm glad for this blog, even though I get the highlights by email, and here is the reason: the highlights aren't on the internet unless somebody puts the info on a blog.

Yes, the 4th Precinct goes to all the trouble of sending out these highlights by email but the stuff is NOT ON THE INTERNET and it's NOT GOING TO TURN UP IN A GOOGLE SEARCH except through the effort of A BLOGGER.

See if I lie. Try an experiment. During the week of September 16-22, a woman named "Tiffany Foster-Shelby," 23, was arrested. So try searching her name and see what comes up. Odds are you'll get this blog and the crime watch blog. But you WON'T turn it up on a 4th Precinct website, or a city website. This is important if you were trying to do a background check on Tiffany Foster-Shelby to find out if you'd want to hire her to babysit your children. Probably not. She was involved in a STABBING.

It's great that blogs are making this info available--FOREVER--to the whole Google-searching world, but WHY IS THIS STUFF BURIED SO DEEPLY? One can, though effort, pull up the old 4th Precinct highlights. Sure. But it should be EASY. I should be able to search "Tiffany Foster-Shelby" on Google and see that info about the stabbing on some kind of OFFICIAL and (therefore) HIGHLY-CREDITABLE website which would have all 555 copies (and counting) of the 4th Precinct Highlights. Whether the information is available to search engines shouldn't depend on whether a blogger is doing their job...probably a job which is self-appointed, unpaid and unsupervised.

I'm not going to put all the highlights up here on this blog, but only because somebody else--thank goodness--has that covered. Instead of replicating the highlights, I prefer to "highlight the highlights." If it happened in the Eco Village, that interests me. If I recognize one of the names or have a connection with one of the addresses, that might draw my attention. I might end up commenting about it. Bravery catches my attention. Citizens who FOUGHT BACK should be lauded, even if the incident wasn't bloody enough to make the pages of the StarTribune.

But at the end of the day...we need more citizens subscribed to the highlights. We need citizens contacting police if they read about something on the highlights, and then suddenly realize they have additional evidence. We need citizens going to the Minneapolis Crime Watch Blog and submitting their commentary--especially additional facts or observed patterns--which can shed more light on these incidents.

It's a good feeling when you make a 911 call, and then later you learn what happened because that incident made the 4th Precinct Highlights. I've had that feeling a few times.

But I'm not going to say precisely what those times were. (And no, it doesn't involve Tiffany-Foster Shelby. That's just a convenient example of a unique name, which reveals something about the search engine availability of the highlights)

ADDENDUM: I've received some feedback on this post. YES, the highlights can be found posted on a 4th Precinct website. HOWEVER, if you pull search terms off those highlights from that website--rather unique suspect names, for example--and you do a Google search with those terms, you WILL NOT find your way back to that website.

For example, I used the suspect name "Ralohn Hare," a rather unique name which is included in "Week 557," the most recent highlights. A Google search turns up that name on the Minneapolis Crime Blogspot, yessssssss. But that term "Ralohn Hare" DOES NOT cause Google to take me back to the 4th Precinct website with the highlights.

For some reason, it appears "Google bots" do not crawl over that 4th Precinct website, picking up data. And my question is WHY THE HECK NOT and ISN'T THAT COUNTER PRODUCTIVE to getting the information out in the universe where it can be conveniently accessed?

ADDENDUM TO ADDENDUM: I'm trying to get into the technical guts of this issue and figure it out. And here's what I think is happening.

Let us use THIS blog as an example. If I were to go into the SETTINGS function of this blog, there is a setting which asks, "LET SEARCH ENGINES FIND YOUR BLOG?"

A small drop down provides a choice of "Yes" or "No." Obviously, I've selected "Yes." I certainly want search engines to find this blog. But take not of the technical explanation provided as part of those "settings," which is as follows:

If you select "Yes," we will include your blog in Google blog search and ping If you select "No," everyone can still view your blog but search engines will be instructed not to crawl it.

In the case of the 4th Precinct website, it appears search engines are NOT "crawling" those websites. Somebody has selected a restricted setting. Why? Why not let search engines crawl over a public website?


Amy Jean Rieschl said...

A link to the Highlights does get posted on the 4th Precinct CARE website.

Johnny Northside said...

Yes, I went there. I was indeed able to click on a link and go to the highlights. Thanks.

HOWEVER...once I was there, I pulled a unique name off those highlights. ONCE AGAIN, the unique named turned up ONLY on the crime blog. The highlights page itself DID NOT come up in a Google search using the unique name of a suspect.


So even though you've shown me the page where I can go and look up the old highlights--and, yeah, come to think of it, I've been there a few times before--I'm still stuck with the original issue: for some reason, it appears "Google bots" are not crawling over those highlights and the stuff is not ending up on Google where it can be easily, conveniently searched.


Margaret said...

Hey, thanks for plugging my blog. I analyze my referral traffic once a week and saw your post.

The 4th precinct highlights are a popular item on the blog. Don't know if it's northsiders checking in (you're right, you should be getting it directly if you are) or suburbanites with schadenfreude.

The MPD has been marvelous about generating and posting data in the last few years so I am not one to complain, but their posting stuff in a timely fashion is irregular, no doubt due to staffing, resources etc. Not so much the 4th precinct highlights but the MPD highlights are frequently backlogged even though when they come out, they are supposed to be up by 6 pm the same day, according to the highlights themselves. I try pretty hard to post thinks right away, or at least within 24 hours.

That being said, the CARE site is great and all Northsiders should check it regularly.

Also--I'll make a pitch for volunteers. I am the primary but not the only author on the crimewatch and we can always use more help. If you want to be a contributor, email me at

Johnny Northside said...

Oh, you're very welcome.

I don't know about being a contributor...I can barely keep up with all the stuff I need to put on my own blog. But you should feel free to link to my crime articles if you feel they are relevant. And I think I need to check into your blog more regularly, and add comments if I have any other info about some of the incidents.

Got any thoughts about how the 4th Precinct Highlights are restricted from being crawled by search engines, EXCEPT on your blog? You understand that without your blog, that stuff doesn't get crawled? And getting crawled by search engines is, like, HUGE. The stuff may as well be printed on (shudder) PAPER if it isn't getting crawled.