The Outstater

November 2, 2021

Indy Crime: It’s Decision Time

WHEN DID CRIME become a plot device? It happened somewhere along the way to approving Mayor Joe Hogsett’s $1.3-billion Indianapolis city budget, the richest in history. It sailed through all the committees untouched on the promise that it was necessary to properly fund crime “control.”

Crime, you see, does pay. Democrats now have a wealth of dollars to hand out to their civic action groups (whose swollen staffs might be useful as election-day organizers). The Republicans can point to the budget items labeled “public safety” and tell their hapless constituents that something is being done.

But it’s just political drama; nothing is better on the streets.

October ended as the deadliest month in the city’s history. There were at least 34 Homicides, 80 people shot and 24 stabbed. All of this, please know, in a subset of the population that may amount to less than 0.5 percent but is responsible for as much as 75 percent of homicides. 

And only a fraction of the money said to be for public safety will go to tactical operations, i.e., catching and jailing killers. Most will go to toward efforts to fight the eternal unhappiness of poverty, despair and injustice. Those are the reason crime rates are so high, or so people like the mayor believe.

“The progressives say that the streets will not, cannot, and perhaps even should not be safe until such root causes have been addressed,” writes William Voegeli in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books. “Decency and pragmatism, then, both demand policies that comfort those afflicted by societal failures through humane social programs, rather than efforts to discipline lawbreakers through coercion.”

Such an approach, first articulated by Eleanor Roosevelt, has a miserable record. In fact, as the political scientist James Q. Wilson famously noted, crime rates began to rise sharply in the 1960s at the very time when economic opportunities became larger and barriers to advancement became smaller.

Social disadvantage, then, doesn’t seem to be the begin-all-and-end-all explanation that the mayor would have us believe it is. His strategy, commendable and fitting for church and social work, does not translate into a policy that keeps neighborhoods safe.

The Pew Research Center, using statistics from the FBI and Bureau of Justice, found that in 2020 slightly fewer than 50 percent of all violent crimes were reported to the police. Of those that did get reported, slightly fewer than 50 percent resulted in an arrest, the charging of a suspect and a referral for criminal prosecution. Voegeli asks us to combine the two statistics to see that roughly 80 percent of violent crimes did not result in anyone being prosecuted. And the likelihood that any particular property crime was prosecuted was about 6 percent.

That doesn’t leave much real crime-stopping to either fund or defund.

For the problem is not money but determination, Voegeli argues: “Twice, the Declaration of Independence links physical safety, human flourishing and government legitimacy,” he reminds us. “Governments are instituted to secure our inalienable rights, it states, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Further, people have the right to establish a government based on whether its principles and organization ‘seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’”

If Indianapolis citizens believe that is true — safety for each one of us, regardless of race or address — then they will need more effective representation, the kind that understands the broad economic and social benefits of prosecuting crime regardless of any psycho-socio factors.

That, or they can continue as they are, betting that the Founders were wrong and that the mayor and his $1.3 billion can remake human nature by decree, that somehow — and rather quickly — the city can cajole criminals into giving up crime.

Considering these past few years, it’s sad we’re even discussing this. — tcl


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