To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I Say Up the Ante, Go For 300,000 Arrests

One more hole in the zero tolerance policing approach, from the Examiner:
Zero-tolerance policing implemented under former Mayor Martin O’Malley has failed to slow the soaring homicide rate in Baltimore, internal police statistics indicate

[...]

And even after two straight years of more than 100,000 arrests, in 2002 and 2003, the number of homicides has not dropped to the 2001 low of 251, the stats show.

[...]

“I’m not surprised,” said former Police Commissioner Ed Norris, who presided over the most dramatic drop in homicides in the past decade, from 305 in 1999 to 261 in 2000. “I’ve never supported zero tolerance. We would make low-level arrests, but it was with a purpose. It was focused on an area that was having problems. We would have detectives on hand to debrief people to solve homicides.”

[...]

Since 1999, city police have arrested more than 700,000 people — a pace of 250 people day every day for eight years. Arrests peaked at 110,000 in 2003, when the number of homicides rose nearly 7 percent.
I tend to think that a zero tolerance approach, when executed forcefully, will reduce violent crimes. I tend to think this; but I certainly don't study the statistics enough to give an intelligent and informed opinion on the subject. Since the certificate on my wall that says "Trained Criminologist" is really a place mat from a Greek restaurant that I wrote -- in crayon -- "Trained Criminologist", I'll let the experts debate what lowers crime, and I'll stick to asking questions about the larger implications of living in a police state.

i.e., is it a good idea, even if violent crime significantly drops, to arrest citizens at a rate of 1 in 6? And remember, we are talking about arresting individuals for quality of life infractions, and not bringing charges against them. It's a significant infringement on your civil liberties to be held in jail for a day or more, and then not be charged with a crime. This is standard practice in an O'Malley style zero tolerance approach.

How much does crime need to drop to make serious civil liberty violations OK? Any? Is there a percentage where it becomes acceptable? Is there a long-term effect from criminalizing a large segment of the population? Mostly the members of what you could call the underclass. It certainly can't be positive for community police relationships...Full article here.

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