My new favorite local reporter put out the article I was trying to find time to write in my blog, and I’m glad he did. He did it better than I would have. He went out and did some “shoe leather” reporting, as one commenter put it in reply to his story, and that’s not something I likely would have done, either. I just would have pontificated distantly over a cup of hot java, as I’m probably about to do now, anyway.
But I had become concerned of late, and had told some of my church-morning compatriots, and fellow workmates, that this reactionary social media crime-buster business isn’t productive. I had already seen cases of folks posting what they perceived as a crime in those chat rooms, seen outraged response after outraged response, and then seen it end up just being folks going about their ordinary business. An uptick in crime is one thing. An imagined epidemic quite another. How long before people start using this exaggerated “crime wave” to cover their own mistakes?
Not long, as a matter of fact.
So I’m glad Scheide wrote this article. It helps to bring back into perspective that even though, yes, we have a crime problem, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens is a crime. Sometimes people cause their own misery. And, when they don’t want to own up to it, they will often blame the local “villains” and our local “villains” right now are the transient and homeless. In that cowboy-vigilante mentality it’s easy to form a posse and grab a rope and want to enact justice but, as both local and distant history will teach us, often we’ve got the story wrong. And enacting justice when you’ve got the story wrong is the most tragic crime of all. The wheels of justice move sagaciously slow, and require a lot of shoe leather investigating. That’s going to be a problem in the draw-and-fire CCW age.
And I’m not trying to understate the problem. Laws enforced at the federal and state levels have released people from prison back onto the streets. Literally. At least partially because of that, we have an uptick in crime, all over the state. The laws put into place to jail them were ill-conceived and we ended up with the highest prison population in the world. We had to, and still have to, fix that. At the same time we are living in the era of the greatest gap between rich and poor this country has ever known. Add to that the fact that we are still in the aftermath of a great economic collapse and there are frankly not enough opportunities for those on the bottom rung of the ladder, and we’ve added thousands to that number.
We can continue to argue the merits of those original laws that put too many people in prison, or the merits of the prison downsizing, and we probably will, but we have a reality to face here. Last year, we voted down a tax increase that would have added to our police force and increased our jail capacities. In 2014, we did the same. If more money for more jails and more cops is not the answer, what is?
It isn’t vigilante justice.
Another story hit the wire just as I was contemplating this write-up last night. A story about vigilantism. It ended with vehicular assault on a homeless man. There are many details about the story I don’t have; it’s hard to tell who the aggressor was. I haven’t looked to see what the social media crime sites have to say about it yet, but I will. I hope we don’t jump to conclusions. Maybe the man ought to have moved. Maybe the citizen force shouldn’t have been out there brandishing guns. Or maybe it was just a case of miscommunication and bad timing.
All I know is something like this doesn’t make things better. It makes things worse.
The Old West has been romanticized in novels and old Reagan movies, but there is a reason we went from lawless frontiers to lawful communities. Too many people die unnecessarily in cowboy shoot-outs. The reality is far more horrible than the fantasy.
That is not where we want to end up. In a society there are necessary trade-offs. One of the trade-offs of increasing incarcerations is that more people who do not deserve to be put away get put away. One of the trade-offs of decreasing incarcerations is that more people who deserve to be put away are not. There is no way to get it right every time. There is no way to eliminate all possibility of crime.
We have to find answers to the recent uptick of crime in the community of Redding. Sensible answers. Creating a criminal act of your own is not an answer to crime. It is simply another crime.
Creating a false criminal act out of the blue to cover a mistake is also a crime. Or, at least, it oughta be.
I’m willing to help look for answers. This is my town, too. But the solutions need to be better than the problems or, in reality … we are all just a part of the problem.