August 22, 2007

That’s Our Brother

Four more murders. Three yesterday, and one man shot in June died Saturday.

Heartbreaking vignette from the recent Times-Picayune article:
Schaffer lay on a stretcher with his arms folded, shirtless and wearing jeans and construction boots. Nearby, a huddle of bereaved family members wept and cried out in anger. A shoeless boy of single-digit age stared at the body on the stretcher. "That's my brother," he repeated over and over. He did not cry.
Yes, his brother was just released on parole for a narcotics charge. But, the child did not see a “bad guy” when he looked at the body on the stretcher. He saw his brother.

A murder is hard to prevent, unless you know it is going to happen. I can safely assume by the murder rate that NOPD officers are not psychic and do not know when and where murders will happen. So, how do you effectively prevent them?

One way is to look at every person as a potential murderer and act accordingly – more “boots on the street,” more cameras on the streets, more guns, more traffic checkpoints, a cop on every corner.

Or, you can look at every person as your brother or sister. Think, “What do I want my brother and sister to have?” and make sure every person has those things, be it food, education, health, opportunity, hope, etc.

The solution to our violent crime problem is not a law enforcement solution. We have plenty of laws and enough enforcers. As much as I want the criminal justice system to function after a crime is committed, I would much rather the crime never happen in the first place.

Sure, a functional criminal justice system is a deterrent. But, is there a better deterrent than not having a reason to commit a crime?

This goes back to valuing every life as equal.

Once again, my goal:
NOLA will have the lowest per capita murder rate in the United States for cities with populations between 250,000 and 300,000.
And some solutions:
Better and more effective policing strategies (problem-oriented policing), a city which provides functioning social and municipal services (health care, education, electricity, water, maintained streets, flood drainage, doesn't wrongly demolish your house), and a community that values every life as equal from birth to death.
We can do it. It will take a “no excuses” attitude and a lot of work. And it starts with us, which is why I am digging Rising Tide 2.


Carmen said...

You say it's not a law enforcement problem, but it IS in that it's a leadership problem. No one is expecting psychic NOPD to take over. But the mayor and the chief public officials live a life apart from the citizens of this city; when they go about, they do so as the elite do, from appointment to appointment, with entourage, and not doing their own chores or engaging in the common life. That lends to a sensibility of 'oh, it's really not that bad, what are they complaining about?'

Now, if there is no visible, community-addressed leadership, how can the good men and women of the organizations do responsible work? It is a major problem that Jordan's office cannot keep its help. It is NOT exclusively a cash issue. It is interoffice politics. You need focused leaders at the top to direct the crews underneath.

We can all see the product of what City Hall is focusing on: it's not eliminating crime. What can Carter's Crime Council do if all that is suggested is throwing money towards programs? What you say with your title is the key. The dignity of our poorest citizens is being assailed, just like the dignity of all the citizens are assailed with lack of comprehensive, logical thinking in the implementation of program change or law enforcement. The mayor is not lifting up the community, he is not interested in street level crime prevention, and he even publicly dismisses concerns over the rising murder rate as negative branding or a double-edged sword.

The German said...

I know I ripped on your "every life is equal" take before, but I think you might have something.

While I don't necessarily think that everyone is or should be viewed as equal, I would never, through force or fraud, deprive anyone of their life, liberty or property. Obviously many in NO, especially young black males, do not share in that thinking.

I would be great to eliminate the need for crimes, but I think that is a little Pollyanna. I think it is worth while to teach kids that every life is valuable. But before that can happen, kids must be taught that their own life is worth something. I don't think either is happening.

But that stuff is a long range fix, if it would even work. The short term fix is to get NOPD and the judicial system working properly. In a world without consequences, our baser instincts unfortunately prevail.

The simplest and easiest solution is to decriminalize drugs. It would eliminate the turf war and drop the price of drugs (as they would no longer be a rare commodity) thus reducing the motive for people to be drug sellers (i.e. less profit). But no one ever wants to seriously discuss this. I guess drugs are part of the puritanical fabric of America. "No sex and drugs, that might harm you little kiddies." Thanks government, I can choose for myself.

m.d. said...

Carmen, thanks for commenting.

I want to respond to something you wrote: “You say it's not a law enforcement problem, but it IS in that it's a leadership problem.”

Actually, what I wrote is: “The solution to our violent crime problem is not a law enforcement solution.” That’s different, and I totally agree with you that leadership is a problem in the criminal justice system.

In my solutions, I mention problem-oriented policing, which I think utilizes many of the practices you mention. And, the problems in Eddie Jordan’s office speak for themselves.

As far as your criticisms of the mayor, I can’t argue with those either. In my solutions, I mention the need for “a city which provides functioning social and municipal services.” That is the job of the Mayor and the City Council. And, because they are not doing their job effectively, the poor state of the city is contributing to the crime problem.

German: Decriminalizing drugs is one way to eliminate the market for drugs on the supply side. What I am suggesting in valuing every life as equal attacks the demand side of the equation. Lessen the demand for drugs by improving social conditions for everyone and creating less drug users.

I would also say that without social justice, the criminal justice system will never be fixed in the short term. Inequality breeds crime, and the city is fertile right now.

Charlotte said...

The Criminal

A young man of strong body, weakened by hunger, sat on the walker's portion of the street stretching his hand toward all who passed, begging and repeating his hand toward all who passed, begging and repeating the sad song of his defeat in life, while suffering from hunger and from humiliation.

When night came, his lips and tongue were parched, while his hand was still as empty as his stomach.

He gathered himself and went out from the city, where he sat under a tree and wept bitterly. Then he lifted his puzzled eyes to heaven while hunger was eating his inside, and he said, "Oh Lord, I went to the rich man and asked for employment, but he turned me away because of my shabbiness; I knocked at the school door, but was forbidden solace because I was empty- handed; I sought any occupation that would give me bread, but all to no avail. In desperation I asked alms, but They worshippers saw me and said "He is strong and lazy, and he should not beg."

"Oh Lord, it is Thy will that my mother gave birth unto me, and now the earth offers me back to You before the Ending."

His expression then changed. He arose and his eyes now glittered in determination. He fashioned a thick and heavy stick from the branch of the tree, and pointed it toward the city, shouting, "I asked for bread with all the strength of my voice, and was refused. Not I shall obtain it by the strength of my muscles! I asked for bread in the name of mercy and love, but humanity did not heed. I shall take it now in the name of evil!"

The passing years rendered the youth a robber, killer and destroyer of souls; he crushed all who opposed him; he amassed fabulous wealth with which he won himself over to those in power. He was admired by colleagues, envied by other thieves, and feared by the multitudes.

His riches and false position prevailed upon the Emir to appoint him deputy in that city - the sad process pursued by unwise governors. Thefts were then legalized; oppression was supported by authority; crushing of the weak became commonplace; the throngs curried and praised.

Thus does the first touch of humanity's selfishness make criminals of the humble, and make killers of the sons of peace; thus does the early greed of humanity grow and strike back at humanity a thousand fold!
~~Kahlil Gibran