There is simply too much violence in our cities and towns. How do we put an end to the shootings, robberies and rapes that we read about and hear about every day? If you’ve ever been abused, believe me, you’ll never forget it. Safety is very important to most people, but unfortunately for some liberals, the concept of public safety is not always at the top of the priority list. Some of my best friends think that what we might call retributive justice should not be part of our common philosophy.
Most New Yorkers want to see the violence go down. If you have been robbed at gunpoint or injured due to the commission of a serious crime, it is not hard to imagine that you would want the offender to be punished appropriately. This is why so many people believe passionately in the death penalty. If your mother, sister or child is restrained, beaten or killed, do you really think the abuser should be allowed to live? If not, what universe do you live in?
Ultimately, when we discuss this issue, it almost always comes down to the subject of the police. I always thought you had to be at least a little crazy to become a cop. It is very difficult work. Years ago, I taught cops at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I really liked them as a group. Yes, they had a universal approach to criminal justice. There were the good guys and there were the bad guys. When I worked with New York City Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy, I was sent on patrol with two cops who were very nice to me. At one point, one of them turned around and said, “Hey, professor, see those guys under the lamp post? There is a crime waiting to happen. Cops often have an instinctive sense of who the bad actors are. Many people reading this will think that this type of profiling is very unhealthy and will almost always involve race and class. I dare say that if you know the mores of the police, what I have just written will ring true.
To return to the main theme, our society must determine how to curb crime. It seems to me that if we find that certain people regularly exhibit criminal behavior, we have to find ways to anticipate their actions and put an end to this anti-social behaviour. Likewise, if we know how it happens and with what regularity, we can trace such behavior. We need to find ways to protect ourselves.
Part of the solution is to do everything in our power to bring people together to stop serious crime. It’s not an easy thing to do. People may fear putting themselves in harm’s way to protect people they don’t know. But we saw it happen. Regularly, the people of a metro station come together to thwart criminal behavior. The more this civic activity becomes regularized, the safer our towns and villages become.
In the end, it all comes down to how much pain individual citizens are willing to absorb. You need to think about what you might be prepared to do when you witness criminal behavior. Would you scream when you saw someone stealing from someone else? Crime is all around us and if we can put an end to criminal activity, we will participate in the decriminalization of our society. So far, we haven’t gone that route. Maybe it’s out of fear. Perhaps we have come to a point where we are willing to ignore criminal behavior and suffer the consequences that come with ignoring our surroundings.