War on Crime Begins Within

By Cal Thomas Copyright Los Angeles Times Syndicate | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 5, 1994 | Go to article overview

War on Crime Begins Within


Cal Thomas Copyright Los Angeles Times Syndicate, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


If it's an election year, you can almost guarantee there will be a crime bill. This year is no exception. It doesn't matter which party is in the White House. Politicians believe they must demonstrate a determination to "fight crime" or be "tough on crime" and that legislation will do the trick, or at least fool enough voters into believing they are making a dent in criminal activity.

House and Senate conferences last week agreed on a massive $33.2 billion crime bill that had President Bill Clinton gushing that its goals were one of the reasons he ran for president.

In addition to putting 100,000 more police officers on the streets, the bill bans the manufacture, sale and possession of 19 assault weapons; provides in excess of $10 billion to build more prisons; expands the federal death penalty to cover about 60 offenses; requires mandatory life terms for people convicted of three serious felonies; and authorizes $8.8 billion for programs that include midnight basketball games.

For more than two decades, the government has been fighting a war on crime - and the criminals have been winning. Government officials seem to believe that criminals are a fixed number, and if we deal with those now committing crime, we will solve the problem. If that were true, crime would no longer be a concern.

Between 1973 and 1992, the American prison population grew to 884,000 from 210,000. More prisons were constructed, costing taxpayers $37 billion, than during any period in our history. But the overall crime rate increased. Like government's war on poverty, the war on crime has not been won because government has failed to address the real cause of crime.

Many liberals try to justify or excuse criminal behavior based on a flawed analysis of the human condition. They think people commit crimes because they are deprived of material goodies, jobs and decent housing. If that were true, then everyone who is poor, unemployed and living in substandard housing ought to be knocking over banks and mugging citizens. But most poor people aren't criminals, so that answer is insufficient.

Conservatives have been equally at fault, some trying to sell the idea that people can be deterred from committing crimes with tough laws and the threat of locking up criminals for extended terms. …

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