The Outstater

April 27, 2021

“Hogsett Announces ‘Reimagining’ of Public Safety through New York University Partnership.” — headline in the Indianapolis Star, Jan. 15, 2020

EARLY IN MY JOURNALISM CAREER my path crossed that of a city councilman who represented a district with a crime problem. People were coming to church and finding dead bodies in the parking lot and that sort of thing.

An election was upcoming and the councilman had scheduled a meeting with our editorial board. The conversation soon got around to crime and what policies he would introduce if reelected.

He said there would be no policies as such. Rather, he planned to meet with certain of the drug dealers, pimps and gang leaders and negotiate an acceptable level of mayhem. In effect, he told us that the mechanisms of our so-called Western Civilization would not be needed, thank you very much. He planned to handle matters without benefit of due process, common law, subpoenas, property rights, uniform sentencing, warrants, etc., and certainly without aggressive policing or prosecution.

At the time, I dismissed the conversation as crazy talk. Surely it was just another example of hubris momentarily overcoming judgment, that the views expressed did not represent any sizable opinion in the district.

Looking back, though, the man was a prophet. He was “reimagining,” as they now say, public safety.

That was over 30 years ago. How did it work out?

Not well. It turns out that only criminals invest in such places. And the only people who live there are those who cannot leave — they and the politicians who feed off them. Crime is rampant. How could it be otherwise?

The data supporting that grim assessment is undeniable. Last year, the nation saw the largest percentage increase in homicides in recorded history, all thanks to the approach pioneered by our councilman, an approach now coupled with the “de-policing” movement. 

Only two-fifths of those convicted of felonies in state courts are actually sentenced to prison, according to John Pfaff’s “The True Causes of Mass Incarceration.” Of the rest, about half received no incarceration and half were sentenced to a short term in a local jail. 

“Indeed, at any one time there are more than twice as many convicted offenders on probation or parole — that is, not incarcerated — as there are in the nation’s prisons or jails,” says Joseph Bessette of the Claremont Institute.

And last week, the Biden administration rescinded guidelines establishing commonsense preconditions for when the federal government can open a “pattern-or-practice investigation” of local police departments. It is an expensive, time-consuming process that effectively cancels local control as well as those thousand-year-old mechanisms of civilization.

Anyone who watched this reimagining of public safety in its early stages is not surprised by its popularity. It is an adolescent’s dream come true, i.e., “stick it to the man.” What is surprising is that after all these years it is not understood to be a disaster. Indeed, it is thought rude to even compare the before and after, a slur on the hapless people trapped in its hogarthian misery.

Several years ago another type of councilman gave me a tour of my city’s most depressed neighborhoods — crime-ridden commercial wastelands all. He pointed out that even though the streets were unsafe during certain hours, the infrastructure was sound and free of debt. He argued that human capital had survived in these neighborhoods, with many of the residents resourceful, productive and hard-working.

My councilman friend insisted that if given a chance those living in his district would be willing and capable of investing in each other and building up their neighborhoods, and they can do so without any help from Washington, the Statehouse or City Hall.

But that chance won’t happen, he said, until the political leadership, particularly woke mayors and prosecutors, restore law and order, to use a quaint phrase from the 1970s. If you are tracking the elections in places like Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, you know that won’t be anytime soon. — tcl


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