08 September 2006

Curbing Crime Requires New Ideas

Crime in Cincinnati is a hot topic. On Wednesday, the Enquirer quoted police chief Tom Streicher saying "an inaccurate picture of the city is painted in the media, because of over-zealous reporting of crime." He's absolutely right, and coincidentally enough I listed the news stories for a couple of recent WCPO and WKRC broadcasts just a few days ago so you can see the data yourself.

But Streicher said something else: “This is the fourth straight year we’ve had a decrease in (serious) crimes. We have one of the safest cities in America.”

That's interesting, because on the same day, WCPO.com reported that "Homicides are way up in Cincinnati and city leaders are trying to do something about it." And the next day the Enquirer reported that "the reality is that the number of homicides has been increasing... The city has had 59 homicides this year, and has experienced a 9.1 percent increase through the first seven months this year."

Someday I'll figure out how to post a graph, but for now here are the homicide numbers in easy-to-read format:

2001: 63
2002: 66
2003: 75
2004: 68
2005: 79
2006: 78 (extrapolated)

The homicide rate is 24% higher now than in 2001. The only way I can think of for Streicher to state that there has been a decrease is his use of the words "serious crimes", which I presume means that serious crimes overall have gone down but murders have gone up. Still not that comforting.

Curbing crime requires a new direction, one that focuses on prevention rather than maintenance. By prevention, I mean preventing a person from becoming a criminal in the first place, not preventing a criminal from commiting a crime.

Increasing police presence may prevent crime, but it does not prevent criminals. Same thing with arresting small time dope dealers. In fact, the entire criminal justice system is antiquated and ineffective. It maintains crime, it does not prevent it. Unfortunately, there are too many politicians and citizens who insist on being defiantly ignorant about crime, so they adopt a "tough on crime" stance that should really be called a "stupid on crime" stance.

What factors lead to a person becoming a criminal? How are these factors best addressed? Citizens and officials need to start thinking about crime from a new perspective, one that considers causative sociological and psychological factors.

For example, lack of education is associated with criminal behavior. Why not sentence juveniles to school? Why not build a "jail school" instead of a jail? Instead of sentencing criminals for X years, why not sentence them to learn a trade or get a diploma/degree? If it takes 2 years, fine. If it takes 10, fine. But they don't get out until they can demonstrate ability to be part of civilized society and make a contribution.

Doing something like this would address multiple factors associated with the path to criminality. First, it would remove the person from an unhealthy and counterproductive family and social environment. Second, it would provide some level of education or vocational training and (thirdly) the economic opportunity that comes with it. Granted, it's forced down their throats but their parents didn't do their job so society has to pick up the slack.

And let's not overlook this: criminals use up taxes. Workers pay taxes. Preventing criminality would be a bigger tax cut that anything else you could come up with. So don't be whiny wussies about forking over a few bucks a year to pay for new methods of crime prevention. Preventing crime saves money; maintaining crime wastes it. Remember that, because politicians won't back it unless citizens understand it.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Chief Streicher and elected officials do not take homicides as seriously when they are dope dealers killing other dope dealers? Is it possible that Chief Streicher and elected officials are too intellectually lazy to make the connection between the infestation of drug dealers and the trashing of city neighborhoods such as our own West End?

The school idea is intriguing, but when I look west from Cutter Street at children hanging out and doing nothing all afternoon and evening when Asian students are sitting with their parents doing homework, I wonder if that might not be the best place to effect some real change.

Mark said...

I'm not sure how to prove or test this but if serious crime is dropping but homicides are increasing, many criminals are using better assault techniques (instead of simple battery, you have a murder).

There used to be a video series called "Best Rapes of 19--" which was made of clips of rape scenes from cheap videos of any given year. That's got to be the most dangerous form of porn--I don't think it could make a decent person into a rapist but it could give a pervert a chance to plan out an attack and be more effective.

Maybe pop culture or culture in general is doing the same thing with violence--upgrading assault to homicide.

Anonymous said...

"Why not build a "jail school" instead of a jail?"

It might work. Probation is in some instances a failure. The individuals put on probation are given rules to follow not only by their PO, but also by the Judge. Basically, it's get your GED & get W2 employment.

The closest thing we've got to a jail school in some respects is River City Corrections, but that's only a short term stay, 4-6 months, with 1 year Aftercare, coupled with Probation.

Not only do I think the Police Chief & elected officials aren't fully understanding the criminal connectivity, they're hesitant to step on the feelings of the soft hearts, the clueless & the in-denial people. We also have this Collaborative business hanging over this city like a steel roof. Why a steel roof? You have so many completely misinterpreting the entire process & pushing their own agendas & ideologies. Listen to people talk about it & you'll be floored.

However, I don't think a jail school should be ruled out. IT goes back to the old days when Juvenile had "BIS", Boys Industrial School.

Finally, I'm fed up with officials in this city pooh-poohing off the crime stats. We're all victims & we're suffering. Remember, there's no such thing as non-violent crime. The officials will tell you otherwise, but crime injures all of us.

Michelle Fry said...

I strongly agree with this statement: "Citizens and officials need to start thinking about crime from a new perspective, one that considers causative sociological and psychological factors."

The people who think being tough on crime, especially homocide are idiotic. I'm always shocked to hear people who believe that the death penalty deters crime. As far as I can tell, it just ends in more death.

I saw a program a few years back about a program that teaches gardening to prisoners where they raise their own vegetables in a community garden. The rate of success after release was amazing. There were very few re-offenders.

Several of the prisoners who were interviewed said that they had never learned to nourish anything prior to the program and that learning this skill made them feel like worthy people.

Here's a link to one such program.

Michelle Fry said...

Oops, here's the direct link

Michelle Fry said...

This one raises vegetables in addition to flowers and I think it might be the one I saw on TV.