This post was originally published on February 19, 2012, on

Thursday evening, one of the Hamilton police ACTION teams interrupted their dinner at The Baltimore House to break up what they thought was a drug deal in progress.

What looked like a drug deal turned out to be one youth tagging a building with two friends blocking them from view.

A citizen in The Baltimore House took a picture of the officer’s yellow jacket and posted it to Twitter.

The focus was that officers interrupted their dinner to stop a crime in progress. The suspects were simply people in the background.

I looked at the photo, found it interesting, briefly glanced to see if any suspects were clearly identifiable, confirmed they were not and retweeted.

(I’ve intentionally not republished the link to the photo)

Graffiti arrest of three youths

The following day, the police daily news briefing note included this about the arrests:

On Thursday, February 16th, 2012, at approximately 5:30 p.m., HPS ACTION officers were in the area of King William St. at Hughson St. where they observed three youths, two males and a female, acting suspiciously. On further investigation police revealed the youths were engaged in a mischief. Police allege that one youth was tagging the building while two others stood by and blocked the act from public view. All three youths were arrested.

Yikes… did the photo violate the YCJA?

I paused, quickly returned to the photo, and breathed a sigh of relief.

The photo did not violate, in my opinion, the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

This photo serves as a good reminder to be mindful of the YCJA at all times.

The YCJA prevents the publication of details that could reveal the identity of a youth offender.

Not hard to violate the YCJA, as simple as a school uniform

Something as simple as a school uniform could be an identifying feature that violates the Act.

If one of the youth wore a Cathedral High School uniform – not uncommon in the downtown core – a blurry photo with this detail could land the publisher (all tweeters are publishers) in hot water.

A distinctive jacket and cap could identify a youth to a community or neighbourhood – violating the YCJA.

A photo of a witness or victim of youth crime could lead people to identify the suspect youth – violating the YCJA.

A yellow flag warning – think YCJA before tweeting or retweeting photos

It’s best to avoid publishing photos of police interacting with any individual who may be under the age of 18.

Media organizations only publish about youth crime after much debate and often the involvement of legal counsel.

The line for violating the YCJA moves based on circumstances and the alleged offence.

Those of us independent of large newsrooms do not have the benefits of corporate infrastructure and, more importantly, legal protection.

You know the saying, think before you tweet.