I live a pretty quiet life. I walk through streets of my town, and I walk through parks in my town without any fear. I walk among people of different ages and races and gender without much thought of our differences. Cars and trucks and bikes go by in generally good order and without much difficulty. It is, as I said, a pretty quiet life.
Yet in my town there is crime. There are gangs, and there is trafficking in drugs, and there are robberies and burglaries and shootings and murders. There are traffic accidents that cause injury and even death.
I, however, see almost none of that except in the newspaper. Why? Because my community has hired and trained a large group of men and women to stand between me and those gangs and crimes. Were it not for those police, I would likely see, and would likely be the victim of, those gangs and those crimes.
We ask a great deal of our police officers. We ask them to stand between us and the world of crime and violence. We ask them to spend their days and nights facing the brutal world, the ugliest underside of our society. There are those who take advantage of the freedom intrinsic to our society, the freedom that defines what it is to be an American, in order to serve their own perverted interests. We ask our police to deal with such people day in and day out so that we can live our lives in peace and exercise that freedom for ourselves.
Street crime (as opposed to white collar crime, about which another day) is by and large a function of poverty. Nothing would do more to reduce street crime than to give those in poverty-stricken communities the opportunity to get better education and better opportunities for meaningful employment. So the most glaringly obvious solution to street crime is to concentrate on improving the lives of our poorer citizens.
What is most definitely not the solution is to ask our police forces to solve the problem. It makes no sense at all to try to reduce crime in our poorest areas simply by putting more police in those areas. At best, that only suppresses rather than solves the problem. We already ask a frightening amount of our police officers. We ask them to deal with the ugliest and meanest side of our society so that “we others” don’t even have to see it. We cannot expect that these men and women would at the same time create in those poorer communities the opportunities and atmosphere in which street crime is no longer acceptable.
How do we create such atmosphere and opportunity? I haven’t the foggiest notion. It rests with the whole community to make it happen. It rests with the politicians and with the leaders of the community and with educators and with entrepreneurs. In sum, it rests with all of us to raise up the poorest of us.
One thing is sure. We cannot add such an enormous burden to the already staggering role of our police forces. We need to thank every one of them for letting us live our quiet lives, and we need to all work together to make sure even the poorest of us can have that same kind of life.