Sunday, January 26, 2014

Many crime rates may be down, but the real consequences seem to be going up

I noticed in reviewing my galleys for my upcoming DADT-3 book that I remarked on an apparent increase in crime, or at least in visibility of crime, during the Bush years since 9-11.
Actually, many specific crimes in Washington DC itself have gone done since the early 1990’s, when in some neighborhoods the murder rate was high because of the crack cocaine epidemic.
But, as Washington has become “gentrified” and more neighborhoods (like U Street, H St NE, and near Nationals Park) see expensive condos and apartments built while poor people are driven out (often to Prince George’s County) the practical concern of crime for many citizens seems greater than ever.
It’s also true that the media has become aggressive in reporting crimes in most cities. The media leaves the impression that both property and violent crime are more common in affluent and suburban neighborhoods in the past, and that much of it takes on a brazen and desperate character.
Add to this is, of course, the possibility of cyber crime and identity theft, and the inability of the credit card and banking industry to control the problem, leading to economic, or often job and reputational losses for consumers that can be difficult to compare.  Also, there are diabolical ways that people can be framed for computer crimes, as I have discussed on my Internet Safety blog.
It is true that a lot of crime is impulsive, and some of it is driven by drugs and a need for a quick fix.  Sometimes these lead to easy apprehensions.  I was hit by a “snatch” at a Metro station last spring, where it appears that the cameras were not properly positioned to provide a deterrence.  I was not injured and all credit and debit cards were quickly replaced, with all illegitimate charges reversed quickly.  Banks and probably the Metro took the hit,  which may be the criminal’s point.  Only “they” lose money; real people don’t.  I can’t give details here as the case is still open and further testimony (like with a grand jury) is at least possible.  I will say that some criminal schemes seem so silly that it is hard to believe that they can work for very long, and depend on very gullible consumers and small-time retailers.
But some crime, as Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out, sounds like it comes from a space of a kind of class warfare.  Some criminals see “rich people” gaining what they have at the unseen expense of others, so they think there is no moral compass in society anyway that is meaningful.  They think that the better-off victims are getting their just due  - that “there are no victims”. This sounds like a very dangerous trend that can become connected to terrorism, both domestic and connected to foreign and religious or extremist elements.   A variation of this may play out with the social structure of gangs, where local group loyalty becomes the highest “moral” value and snitching is a kind of cowardice.  In the worst cases this plays out with crimes committed as “initiations” or part of the “knockout game”.  I’ve seen this kind of indignation before in my life in a few settings:  in the Army, and then with elements of the far Left in the early 1970s.  But this sort of behavior seems to have increased in the past few years, particularly after the “financial fa├žade” that had supported the middle class fell apart in 2007 and 2008.
For most of my adult life, I came to see myself as responsible for my own fate, and did not think very much about violent crime, although I was quite concerned about home security once I moved into New York City in the 1970s.  Before then , there had been an impression that suburbs were always safe, but in New York then you needed Medeco cylinders and door jam reinforcements, and bars for windows near fire escapes.  
That was during the period that drug epidemic was increasing.   It’s a lot better in NYC now than it was then. 

Since returning “home” in 2003 to look after my mother (who passed at the end of 2010), I had to ponder the idea that my own self-broadcast could attract harm to others, specifically her.  I had never been exposed to the idea of people being “protected” or “exposed” my whole adult life.  Around 2007, it seems that the brazenness of crimes reported by local media  (like Pat Collins on NBC4) increased.  (In 2008, there were a couple of cases involving people with sensitive jobs over in PG County Maryland that were especially shocking.)    I had to contemplate what this could mean for the “victim”, a word that I find rather appalling personally.  But when someone has a loss due to a crime committed by someone else, or because of negligence of someone else (as on the highway, or with an unsecured weapon) , that loss becomes part of the person’s reality.  Justice doesn’t erase the loss.  Without forgiveness, the person actually participates in paying for the perpetrator’s crime, and in a sense, his own karma, if he or she had benefited from the sacrifices of others earlier in life. When someone is threatened and help is not present and the person cannot defend himself or herself, in practical terms, at least at the time being, the attacker has total power and control.  
The latest public incident happened at the Columbia Mall, near Ellicott City and Baltimore Saturday morning.  Yes, instability and sociopathy or psychopathy (and depravity) seem to occur with a certain population regardless of the economy.  As long as we have so many guns in circulation, this will go on.  This sort of threat gradually merges into something much worse, a WMD attack from an ideological enemy intent in forcing us to change our way of life. 

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