Think for a minute about the barriers to effective crime control. What are they? Some might point to a lack of resources; too few cops, not enough jail space, not enough money for OT. Others might point to community factors like the “no snitch” rule found in high crime neighborhoods.
All of these points are correct but they overlook a key factor: politics.
Controlling crime is made almost impossible sometimes. A mayor doesn’t get along with the police chief, the city manager doesn’t trust the mayor, and the city council is entirely dysfunctional.
We also cannot lose sight that many other groups are involved in this process. Civil rights groups have input, as do neighborhood associations, as do businesses, as do some preachers.
What emerges from the input of these various groups are not just competing values and priorities, but values and priorities that are in direct conflict. Civil rights groups don’t want high crime neighborhoods “over policed,” businesses don’t want their customers arrested or run off, neighborhood associations want more social spending. And of course, anytime race is brought into the mix, everything stops, lines get drawn in the sand, and intransigence sets in.
I’ve seen this in Cincinnati and in other places. It is an under-researched area but it is critically important to understand. Political roadblocks to effective crime control lead to more crime. These roadblocks lead to the decline of neighborhoods and to increased victimization.
I recall vividly the riots that occurred in Cincinnati in 2001. The politics was toxic. The city council and the mayor were either ineffective in managing the situation or they were instrumental in facilitating the riots. Either way, their lack of discipline, their pursuit of political self-interest, and their inability to confront the voices of radicalism and rebellion led to the riots.
Public safety is the first order of business of government. Unfortunately, given today’s upside down views on crime and justice, pubic safety takes a back seat to the whims of social justice advocates.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology