Jun 29, 2008

Crime: Not Reported; Not Punished

It's not surprising that crime statistics in the U.S. show crimes against people and property are diminishing! A couple of personally-observed incidents make me realize that more and more crimes are not being reported to the police. These stories and other factors make me believe that significantly over 50 percent of crime is now unreported.

Add to that the problem of relatively few captures of criminals and even fewer convictions, and you realize a huge and growing problem is not being dealt with except through the privatization of security. Pay da' man and he will guard your property and person!

[The attached chart shows 2-year average data and identifies "Violent" crimes as including: rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault. "Property" crimes include: household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft.]

Personally, I just learned that all U.S. mail containing economic stimulus checks sent to residents of a nursing home was opened by the nursing home, even though the mail was individually addressed to the residents. One nursing home resident wondered what had happened to her missing check and asked the bookkeeper, who then pulled the stack of checks out of her drawer. All Treasury checks had been removed from their original envelopes.

In the second situation, a "bad" guy drove three times into a fence and tore it down, resulting in over a hundred dollars damage each time. It appeared the man had to be drunk, on drugs, or typically drove in a fit of anger.

Why were these two crimes not reported? The nursing home resident whose check was intercepted fears retribution if she complains or reports the crime. She knows the employees are in total control of her life, and she can't afford to make enemies.

The old lady with the broken fence fears the man who tore down her fence, wonders what good it will do to report the incident to the police, and observes that homeowners' insurance rates will be raised if she reports the damage. She also believes that justice cannot be done because the guy has no money.

The two incidents and other factors inspired me to research the topic of Vigilantism, one of the most interesting subjects I've ever read on Wikipedia. [Note that the Wikipedia definition defines "Vigilante" as a single person. This definition is not historically sound because Vigilantism typically is implemented by committees or groups of citizens. For example, see the example of the citizens of Skidmore, MO.]

Vigilantism can be thought of as the insurance of justice outside of relying solely on government institutions. One way is through the use of private security firms. Private security officers are paid to both deter and capture criminals, but they have no responsibility for insuring justice after arrest of criminals.

Several years ago during Christmas sales, I saw two private security agents tackle a guy running from a store with a piece of electronic equipment in his arms. I found myself clapping as the "bad" guy got caught. Most interestingly, virtually all the many people in the vicinity ended up clapping too! People want justice, and right now very little justice exists--for a multitude of reasons.

How close are we to when Vigilantism will necessarily grow and possibly flourish? Certainly, a Vigilante Committee composed of responsible citizens always takes second place to law and order agencies established by the government. If criminal environments are successfully dealt with by government institutions, civilization has a firm foundation, and vigilantism is unwarranted.

Vigilantism may be necessary when a very large proportion of crime succeeds without interference from law and order agencies. Read the history references in the Wikipedia article before deciding. Especially see here, here, and here.


Milehimama said...

There are also lots of crimes that are unreported because the victims are engaged in illegal behavior.

I'm talking about the guy who doesn't report a break in/theft because he has a pot stash or the woman who doesn't report an assault by her boss because she is working "under the table".

I've seen a woman allow herself to be beaten in the street (and she was so mad at me for calling the cops!) because her brother had a bench warrant and he was visiting the house.

This is why illegal immigrants are so often targets of robbery - they don't have bank accounts, they carry cash, and they won't report the crime.

Soutenus said...

Good post! Not pleasant to think about but important to look at!

When you get the chance, please come over to A Catholic Notebook and add your personal favorite Catholic books to the growing list via the com box. I'd like to put together a Blogger's Choice Catholic Reading List. I can't wait to see and share the results. Come on by!

aimeemilburn said...

Well, if nothing else this is a good argument for decentralization . . .

Just stopping by to say hello. I've been so busy this year with finishing graduate school, getting engaged, and moving, that I haven't had time to look at anyone else's blogs in forever! I've missed it, and want to start making the rounds again!

Soutenus said...

Thanks for your book suggestions -- imho - they were some of the best
A quick note from A Catholic Notebook. . . . you can add more books to the Blogger's Choice Catholic Reading List until Wednesday. The deadline was extended due to some special requests! I can't wait to see and share the results at the end of the week. Come on by!