It was a strange enough crime to get media attention. And that's partly why John Doe doesn't want to be associated with it: "I'm a quiet family man, and I don't want to be in the public eye." He also didn't want the perpetrator, who remains at large, to find him.
On the evening of Feb. 7, Doe (not his real name) got his car stuck in a snow bank. A man approached offering to help, then threatened Doe with a tire iron until he coughed up some cash. Good Samaritan gone bad.
Doe called 911 but refused to give his name to the officers who responded. He says this caused them to go into "angry mode." The officers did ascertain his identity, from his vehicle registration, and it became part of their report. But the department blacked this information out before releasing the report, because of Doe's stated desire for anonymity.
Doe feels better knowing these steps were taken and even sort of understands why police would want to know who he was. "I still disagree with the tactics," he says, referring to how he was pressured.
In fact, steps are generally taken to shield the identities of crime victims. MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain's news release on the crime identified Doe only by sex, age and community, as always. "In the three years I've been here," says DeSpain, "I've never put out the name of a victim or a witness." Crimes can also be reported anonymously, through Crime Stoppers (608-266-6014).
Obviously, if a person is murdered, his or her name will be released, but DeSpain says this is usually done by the coroner's office, not police. And some victims are identified with their consent or if they testify in open court. But generally, news media are just as unwilling as police to identify victims, especially if they don't want to be known.
"One of my paramount concerns," says DeSpain, "is to prevent victims from being re-victimized."