It’s law and order time

Last night there were three crews covering the entire central business district. Just one domestic violence call ties up two of them.

It’s not enough.

There is zero proactive police work being done in Dayton right now thanks to tight budgets and diminished ranks. Even the best police work is hampered by a prosecutor who is more worried about his conviction rate- than his effectiveness at deterring crime. Our judges aren’t much better- handing out light sentences and allowing plea deals to lighten their work load.

Montgomery County has become a play-pen for the mischievous- while the surrounding counties still have a reputation for being tough on crime.

Our county jail is nicer than some cut-rate motels, and considering that when you are incarcerated the taxpayers pick up your health care- some see it as an easy way to get their emergency dental work done.

In the meantime, we’ve still got politicians talking about creating jobs and economic development- while ignoring the costs to business of a half-assed approach to deterring crime.

I’m sitting and writing this in a dark office- not because it’s nighttime, but because some low-life stole my electric meter last night. It’s not expensive enough to cause an insurance claim- but, it is costing lost productivity in terms of work not getting done. The same goes for time spent rectifying the broken window on my girlfriend’s car two weeks ago (we didn’t even make a police report- it was just the back wing window- the car had been ransacked, but nothing was taken. Turns out 4 cars were hit the same way that night in the neighborhood). The window was $150- the time to deal with it was a few more hours.

Just by moving from Kettering to Dayton- a mere 2.5 miles, my girlfriend’s insurance on her car and her renter’s insurance jumped 20%. These are real costs- that factor into “economic development.”

The last time my office was broken into- it disrupted work for almost 3 days. The cost of crime isn’t just the cost of the damage and the theft- it’s the time wasted in dealing with it. If Dayton (greater) wants to do something that will help economic development- the first thing we should be looking at is removing as many of these time-sucks as possible.

For starters, we need a prosecutor who is tough on crime and we need to make the county jail a place you don’t like to stay. Making big rocks into little rocks may not be done efficiently by hand- but it sure makes someone think twice about doing time.

I will say one thing though- DPD responded with a crew before I was even off the phone with DP&L- and the evidence tech was here and gone- before the meter replacement showed up. Maybe if DP&L weren’t paying its CEO a million a year- it could actually afford people to have crews to show up and replace a meter when it gets stolen- but, no, that makes too much sense.

[Added] Three hours later, I have a meter and three days to secure a new cover for the meter box. Apparently, meters are being stolen to go on homes where the power has been shut off. So once again, our crappy economy thanks to the wizards of Wall Street affects those of us on Main Street. [end of addition]

As I sit, listening to the chirp of dying battery backup units, I am thankful that removing the meter wasn’t the prelude of another break-in. I’m not sure that I’m ready to deal with the emotions that comes along with those. But, if I can’t trust the government to keep this neighborhood safe, it makes me think it’s time to take care of things internally. I guess I’ll be setting up a grid of security cameras to complement the alarm systems- but, in reality what I think we really need is to go back to a less kind and less gentle justice system- where low-life criminals experience a good ass whuppin on their way to jail.

Because we can’t afford to keep playing nice, while our livelihood goes slipping out with the meter.

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15 Responses

  1. truddick September 7, 2010 / 1:04 pm
    Tough on crime?  OK, fine, but not at any cost.  Plea bargains save taxpayer money; done intelligently, they’re a good thing.
  2. Emily Weaver September 7, 2010 / 1:41 pm
    Normally I would say – YES plea bargains are good for moving the system along if it werent for a (now famous) thief in our hood (Huffman Historic) – who also hit South Park (DE you know who I mean…).  Not only has he been given treatment-in-lieu once, twice – but 11 times.  Yep – you read that right ELEVEN times.  At what point do we as citizens say enough?  Well Huffman & South Park did directly to Mat Heck’s office.  The response was shocking.  He was dismissive and down right rude to his electorate.  How is it that this man runs year after year UNOPPOSED.  I would be willing to bet that 5-10% of the population in Dayton is responsible for 90% of the crime.  Just look at what happened over the weekend at the Fair.  Its the same damn thing that happened LAST YEAR!  We have a prosecutor who wants a WIN 100% of the time – well that is easy when you never prosecute the problem (and I am speaking as someone who has sat on 3 juries – you would be shocked at the crap they do deem worthy to prosecute).  I have always said its the “little stuff” (petty theft, vandalism, etc) that drives people out of the city.  Little stuff adds up and you just say enough.
  3. Brad September 7, 2010 / 3:29 pm
    Hopefully whatever bozo stole your meter gets fried when they try to hook it up to their house… Future reproductive activities of said individual would cease…
  4. Another Civil Servant September 8, 2010 / 8:28 am
    David – Good article.  very interesting with an entertaining twist.  However, I can’t help but take amusement at the fact that you are sitting in your office, blogging about your lost productivity while you have no electricity.  It seems to me, in my own little warped section of the world (Kettering, that is, where we apparently pay 20% less for renter’s insurance ) that you may have not missed the productivity by getting actual work done!  Ok, call me crazy, maybe I am missing something, but I am just thinking…

  5. John Ise September 8, 2010 / 9:21 am
    I’m surly a minority opinion here on this topic, but I don’t think we need to get “tougher” on crime, but smarter.  Per the book, “When Brute Force Fails”.

    When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment

    Crime, even after a decade of falling crime rates, remains a huge problem, and a major barrier to improving conditions in poor neighborhoods. Mass incarceration — one American adult in 100 is now behind bars — constitutes a problem in its own right. The challenge we face is how to shrink both problems at the same time. Could the United States have half as much crime and half as many prisoners a decade from now? Yes. But not the way either liberals or conservatives normally think about the problem: not by building more prisons or “fixing root causes,” not through “zero tolerance” or “restorative justice,” not by “winning the drug war” or “ending prohibition,” not with “more guns, less crime” or national gun registration. The current system of randomized severity gets us the worst of all possible worlds: high crime rates and mass incarceration. The alternative approach that could cut both crime and incarceration rates depends on a few principles, simple in concept but requiring effective management:

    Punishment is a cost, not a benefit.
    Swiftness and certainty are more effective than severity.
    A truly convincing threat doesn’t have to be carried out very often.
    A small proportion of the offenders account for most of the crime.
    Offenders need to be warned — personally and specifically — what it is that they’re not supposed to do and what will happen if they keep doing it.
    Concentrating enforcement attention works better than dispersing it.
    Now that it is possible to monitor the location and drug use of probationers and parolees with portable GPS systems, many — perhaps most — of today’s prisoners could be safely managed in the community instead. But that depends on the willingness and capacity to use short jail stays, delivered quickly and reliably, to sanction probation and parole violations.
    The primary goal of drug law enforcement should be to minimize crime and disorder around the drug markets, not to reduce the flow of drugs.
    Not every social program helps control crime. But some demonstrably do: nurse home visits, improved classroom discipline, shifting the school day later so that adolescents aren’t on the streets when there are lots of empty homes, reducing exposure to lead, substitution therapy (methadone and buprenorphine) for opiate addicts.
    Social-services agencies need to be managed with crime control in mind, just as criminal-justice agencies need to be managed to help control disease and serve other non-crime-control purposes.

    Hawaii’s HOPE probation program illustrates how this approach plays out in practice. In Hawaii, as in California, neither judges nor probation officers want to revoke probation and send a probationer to prison for “technical” violations of probation terms. Consequently, probationers quickly learn what they can get away with: roughly, anything short of getting arrested for a new crime. In particular, drug users learn that the most likely result of failing a drug test is a warning from the probation officer. As a result, probationers keep using expensive drugs, which often means going to prison for the crimes they commit to pay for those drugs. But a judge in Hawaii had a better idea. He took a group of methamphetamine-using probationers who wouldn’t stop using their favorite drug, and put them on randomized drug testing, with the promise that every missed or “dirty” test would lead to an immediate 48-hour spell behind bars. Once that threat had been clearly made, most probationers stopped using. Of those who got caught once and spent their two days in jail, fewer than half broke the rules again. That simple step cut the number of probationers arrested for new crimes, and the number sent off to prison, by two-thirds. In High Point, NC, police had been trying and failing for twenty years to control an open crack market. Every time a dealer was arrested, a new dealer took his place. But then the police accumulated cases against all the active dealers, and called them in for a meeting. The police chief issued a simple message: stop dealing right now, or go to prison. That drove most of the dealers away immediately; the one who decided to test the system was arrested and sent away. With all the dealers gone, the customers stopped coming, and the market dried up. Five years later, it’s still gone. Poor parenting creates children at high risk of becoming serious criminals. A baby doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Sending nurses to the homes of first-time mothers who are also poor and young can markedly improve the lives of their children, and reduce their probability of being arrested by more than 25%. That may be the most cost-effective crime-control program ever invented, since the cost of sending out the nurses is more than covered by reduced costs elsewhere in the health-care system due to the fact that the children don’t get sick as often. One provision of the current health care bill would promote such programs, but the Heritage Foundation and the House Republican Conference oppose it as “government intrusion into the family.” After four decades of being “tough on crime,” it’s time to get smart instead. We need to be as tough as necessary, but no tougher. The goal is not to put a many people behind bars as possible, but to make people safer in their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Professionals throughout the criminal justice system are figuring out how to do that; it’s time for the public conversation to catch up with what the experts know.

  6. David Esrati September 8, 2010 / 12:14 pm

    @me- I could write because I had laptop power- but no access to either internet or any of my files on the server. And, like it or not- people expect posts on this site.

    @John Ise- as usual- I learn from you. thank you

  7. Donald Phillips September 8, 2010 / 12:49 pm
    Frequent burgleries and higher insurance premiums are among the perquisites of living in the ‘neighborhood of the year’.
  8. Robert Vigh September 8, 2010 / 3:54 pm
    Legalize all drugs and we could effectively double enforcement on all violent and property crimes since half our resources go towards drug control. It would also drop the # of Americans incarcerated each year by 500,000 or so.  However, a nasty little side effect could be ending the current drug wars in Mexico.
    That is working smarter and not harder. Woohoo!
  9. Hudson Rush September 8, 2010 / 9:01 pm
    Robert,  if drugs are legalized…will they be free?  The fact that drug addicts commit crimes to feed their addictions is not because the can’t find the drugs. It’s because they can’t afford to sustain their habit financially.  Just because drugs are legal, does not mean they will be cheap.
  10. Robert Vigh September 9, 2010 / 8:15 am
    Why would the drugs need to be free? First, the # of crimes committed by addicts is not that high (remember to exclude alcohol in any statistics) and two it would not change much seeing as how they already commit crimes now. Are you assuming that the # of drug addicts would increase? It would help if you would elaborate your point.
    Drugs would certainly be cheaper. Much cheaper in fact. Removing the guns, dodging police and having a product only served by lawbreakers is certainly, most definitely increasing the price dramatically.
    So, I have to assume your main point is that their would be more addicts? Since, people already committing crimes to support their habit would have a zero net effect, because they break the law now. Portugal and Amsterdam are about the only 2 countries to look at and statistics show criminal or not, drug use in the population pretty much stays the same. I would much rather have my resources going against violent crimes.
    Besides Hudson, out of fear we have deprived each other of property. Out of fear that you could do something dangerous, we as a society have deprived you of ownership of your own body.
  11. Hudson Rush September 9, 2010 / 5:56 pm
    “First, the # of crimes committed by addicts is not that high (remember to exclude alcohol in any statistics) and two it would not change much seeing as how they already commit crimes now.”

    What do you base this statement off of?

    “Are you assuming that the # of drug addicts would increase? It would help if you would elaborate your point.”

    I don’t believe it would go up substantially, but if legal more people would experiment. Especially the younger generation.  The more that try an addicting drug, it’s probably safe to say…the more that become addicted.

    So, I have to assume your main point is that their would be more addicts? Since, people already committing crimes to support their habit would have a zero net effect, because they break the law now.

    My original point is that a large amount of drug addicts, not casual users,  have to resort to crime to fund their habit. The don’t break into homes, cars and garages because  they enjoy it. They do it so they can trade your nice weedeater or GPS for a $20 piece of crack.   Legal drugs will still cost money(even if they are cheaper, another argument)…addicts will still have to support their habits.  I can tell you from experience that the  majority of property crimes are  a result of some drug addict trying to raise 20 or 30 dollars for his  next fix.


  12. Hall September 10, 2010 / 8:49 am
    I suspect you are incorrect with that statement. From speaking to police about crimes, i.e. thefts from cars, garage or home break-ins, etc, the majority are in fact committed by “druggies” who need to feed their habit.
  13. John Ise September 10, 2010 / 11:26 am
    I think Hudson raises valid concerns.  Legalization is not a good policy option, but rather the “least bad” one.  Here’s what The Economist magazine wrote in 1999 (sorry but it is long, but worth the effort):

    Failed states and failed policies
    How to stop the drug wars
    Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution
    Mar 5th 2009
    A HUNDRED years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission—just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.
    That is the kind of promise politicians love to make. It assuages the sense of moral panic that has been the handmaiden of prohibition for a century. It is intended to reassure the parents of teenagers across the world. Yet it is a hugely irresponsible promise, because it cannot be fulfilled.
    Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.
     “Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain.

    The evidence of failure
    Nowadays the UN Office on Drugs and Crime no longer talks about a drug-free world. Its boast is that the drug market has “stabilised”, meaning that more than 200m people, or almost 5% of the world’s adult population, still take illegal drugs—roughly the same proportion as a decade ago. (Like most purported drug facts, this one is just an educated guess: evidential rigour is another casualty of illegality.) The production of cocaine and opium is probably about the same as it was a decade ago; that of cannabis is higher. Consumption of cocaine has declined gradually in the United States from its peak in the early 1980s, but the path is uneven (it remains higher than in the mid-1990s), and it is rising in many places, including Europe.
    This is not for want of effort. The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences, locking up half a million of them; tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars. In the developing world blood is being shed at an astonishing rate. In Mexico more than 800 policemen and soldiers have been killed since December 2006 (and the annual overall death toll is running at over 6,000). This week yet another leader of a troubled drug-ridden country—Guinea Bissau—was assassinated.
    Yet prohibition itself vitiates the efforts of the drug warriors. The price of an illegal substance is determined more by the cost of distribution than of production. Take cocaine: the mark-up between coca field and consumer is more than a hundredfold. Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States.
    Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year. But it is not clear that drug demand drops when prices rise. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the drug business quickly adapts to market disruption. At best, effective repression merely forces it to shift production sites. Thus opium has moved from Turkey and Thailand to Myanmar and southern Afghanistan, where it undermines the West’s efforts to defeat the Taliban.

    Al Capone, but on a global scale
    Indeed, far from reducing crime, prohibition has fostered gangsterism on a scale that the world has never seen before. According to the UN’s perhaps inflated estimate, the illegal drug industry is worth some $320 billion a year. In the West it makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens (the current American president could easily have ended up in prison for his youthful experiments with “blow”). It also makes drugs more dangerous: addicts buy heavily adulterated cocaine and heroin; many use dirty needles to inject themselves, spreading HIV; the wretches who succumb to “crack” or “meth” are outside the law, with only their pushers to “treat” them. But it is countries in the emerging world that pay most of the price. Even a relatively developed democracy such as Mexico now finds itself in a life-or-death struggle against gangsters. American officials, including a former drug tsar, have publicly worried about having a “narco state” as their neighbour.
    The failure of the drug war has led a few of its braver generals, especially from Europe and Latin America, to suggest shifting the focus from locking up people to public health and “harm reduction” (such as encouraging addicts to use clean needles). This approach would put more emphasis on public education and the treatment of addicts, and less on the harassment of peasants who grow coca and the punishment of consumers of “soft” drugs for personal use. That would be a step in the right direction. But it is unlikely to be adequately funded, and it does nothing to take organised crime out of the picture.
    Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits.
    Selling even this flawed system to people in producer countries, where organised crime is the central political issue, is fairly easy. The tough part comes in the consumer countries, where addiction is the main political battle. Plenty of American parents might accept that legalisation would be the right answer for the people of Latin America, Asia and Africa; they might even see its usefulness in the fight against terrorism. But their immediate fear would be for their own children.
    That fear is based in large part on the presumption that more people would take drugs under a legal regime. That presumption may be wrong. There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer. Embarrassed drug warriors blame this on alleged cultural differences, but even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates. Legalisation might reduce both supply (pushers by definition push) and demand (part of that dangerous thrill would go). Nobody knows for certain. But it is hard to argue that sales of any product that is made cheaper, safer and more widely available would fall. Any honest proponent of legalisation would be wise to assume that drug-taking as a whole would rise.
    There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so.
    What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.
    By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.

    A calculated gamble, or another century of failure?
    This newspaper first argued for legalisation 20 years ago (see article). Reviewing the evidence again (see article), prohibition seems even more harmful, especially for the poor and weak of the world. Legalisation would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.

  14. Robert Vigh September 10, 2010 / 12:44 pm
    John, thank you for posting that article. I had not read it before, but had heard most of those elements piece-mealed together from other venues.
  15. joe_mamma September 11, 2010 / 1:22 pm
    “Maybe if DP&L weren’t paying its CEO a million a year- it could actually afford people to have crews to show up and replace a meter when it gets stolen- but, no, that makes too much sense.”

    As my great great uncle Benito used always tell us…you usually get the best customer service from government and goverment granted monopolies.

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