Fixing crime in America is a complicated issue

Jazz has a pretty good piece looking at why more cops on the street isn’t a bad thing. His premise is based along a The Washington Post op-ed by Danielle Allen looking at the U.S.’ prison population, and the fact President Donald Trump is promising to be a “law and order” administration. It should be pointed out the Bureau of Justice Statistics released statistics in March which said the U.S. prison population was just under 4M people in 2015. Jazz spends a lot of time looking at Allen’s belief it would be best to end the War on Drugs. I think it’s pretty much been a failure, but I’d rather focus on his suggestion of more law enforcement.

The crux of Jazz’ argument for more police has to do with the crime rates in Chicago and Baltimore. Statistics from earlier this month said there were around 150 murders in Charm City, while the Windy City had close to 200 murders at the start of May. The theory may be more cops on the streets would solve the problem, because the bad guys would be locked up. But Chicago wants to raise its police force to 13,500, while Baltimore’s police force is right around 26-2700. But it’s interesting to see Chicago gang members suggest more cops won’t do anything. From Fox News:

Tracy Cannon – once associated with the Vice Lords – says it won’t matter. “I don’t care how many police they bring in. It’s not going to stop, man.”

Guys on the street say law enforcement made a bad situation worse. “They locked up these gang chiefs and everything went haywire,” says Charles Winters. Large organizations like the Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords subdivided over unresolved disputes. Absent leadership, cliques within the same gang will often do battle. “Ain’t like it used to be,” says Cannon. “Back then we had structure. Older guys would make us go to school. Even though we was gang banging, we would still go to school.”

Now, it’s a bullet-ridden free for all, with gangsters trying to gain respect by proving themselves to be ruthless. “Kids only care about nice clothes, fast money and how many kills they can get,” says [Rashad] Britt. “When they get a certain amount of kills or when they hurt a certain amount of people, they feared. They got the fear factor going on. The kids nowadays in Chicago, that’s what they want.”

Britt also said he got involved in a gang because he was worried for his own life as a kid. The Fox report also suggested the gangs served as a replacement for families.

“We more like a family than a gang… brothers,” says Kevin Gentry – associated with the Vice Lords. In the gang, someone was kind to them. Their role models sold drugs, had money, clothes cars and girlfriends. “The gangs have become family for a lot of young men here in Chicago and across the United States. They gravitate toward the guys with charisma. They gravitate toward the guys that might protect them. But they really are not protected out there. Too many people are being killed, it’s a false sense of security,” says Tio Hardiman from Violence Interrupters, a group that attempts to predict and prevent gangland shootings.

The comments on why people join gangs are pretty interesting. It could be another example of the breakdown of the family or people just having nowhere else to go as why people join gangs, versus staying at home. It is true gangs (or bandits) have existed in world history for centuries, so it’s questionable whether an influx of police officers will suddenly get people to start living the straight and narrow. This doesn’t mean cities should just roll over and ignore where the gangs are, but it’s an extremely complicated issue which cops alone won’t solve. The solution is for people, not the government, to support groups like Violence Interrupters in hopes of quelling gang violence before it starts. But it’s only part of the solution.

Let’s remember, Chicago and Baltimore are home to extremely tight gun laws. Chicago banned gun sales in the city until a judge struck the law down in 2014. There had also been a ban on handguns in Chicago, which was struck down in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court. People still have to register with the state to own a weapon. Maryland requires a “good and substantial reason” for people to get a conceal carry, and people also have to get a “Handgun Qualification License” to own a firearm. These laws make things difficult for innocents to protect themselves, and should be repealed so people can protect themselves without having to wait for the police. It’s just part of the solution, and leaves a lot more which can be accomplished.

There’s also the fact Chicago and Baltimore, plus the states they’re in, have too many laws to begin with. Underground gambling is huge in Chicago, and was subject to a crackdown by former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Chicago also has regulations on massage parlors, and a May raid of 84 shops found only six were busted for prostitution. But the city still shut down ten to eleven shops, instead of the ones only associated with prostitution. Others were fined for not having the license to operate. Baltimore has it own rules and regulations on various vices, plus business regulations, and has used them to shut down establishments which run afoul of the rules. Even if you want to keep gambling and prostitution illegal, should there be so many regulations on businesses that they get shut down for not having a license, or is there a better way to go about it? Aren’t there organizations like the Better Business Bureau which work to shine the light on bad actors? It seems odd to have the government pick winners and losers, when there are already individual groups out there doing it.

The elephant in the room is the relationship between Chicago and Baltimore police and the people they serve. It’s completely understandable why the community has such a low trust in both departments. Seven Baltimore police officers are under federal indictment for racketeering. The City Council has paid millions to settle police abuse lawsuits, including $220K to a woman whose cell phone was destroyed by a cop. Chicago has paid over $200M to settle lawsuits against their department, including $9.5M to someone who was gruesomely injured after being Tased. Chicago Police’s “black site” for interrogations is also a stain on the department’s reputation. This doesn’t mean Baltimore cops were right to “stand down” during the 2015 riots, and it also doesn’t mean all cops are bad. A vast majority of police officers across the country, and in Baltimore and Chicago, are good guys, who want to protect the public from those who would do them harm. But if the city isn’t willing to crack down on bad cops, and investigate when there are allegations of misconduct, then the community mistrust won’t stop and police are less likely to have people help them in investigations. Cities, citizens, and the press need to keep their police departments accountable. They’re only shooting themselves in the foot when they don’t, but it’s again just part of the solution.

It should also be pointed out justice reform techniques in Texas and Georgia have worked, saved money, and kept crime at an all-time low. There is something to be said about enacting sentencing reform at the state and federal level. I’ve written this before, but there are plenty of conservative groups (FreedomWorks and Right On Crime) out there who are pushing justice reform because it works. Those who choose to focus only on California, whether it be critics or proponents of justice reform, are ignoring states where it’s worked (the aforementioned Texas and Georgia). It’s just part of the solution to a complicated problem, but still a solution.

There needs to be honesty in how “law and order” is debated and preserved in America. Just releasing all the drug addicts isn’t a cure-all, nor is repealing every single gun restriction in the U.S. or making drugs, prostitution, and gambling legal. Sending out more and more cops won’t solve the issue either. The good news is there are steps to take which can reduce crime and increase freedom and liberty. It’s something not every activist or politician will admit, but it can be done.