May 26, 2010

Newsflash: Police Chiefs Forget What Crime Is

Today, numerous police chiefs from some of our largest cities (such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston) proclaimed that Arizona's immigration law will increase crime.

So let's see how they reason this:

"This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state."
We have two things at work here - solving/addressing crime, and crime itself. Citizens want that police solve crime at a high rate and citizens want crime to be low. From a deterrence perspective, these two ideas can be linked - if police increase the certainty and swiftness of crime closure, crime should go down as criminal balance the increase costs of crime with the same benefits of illegal activity.

However, the ideas are not the same. If anything, the quote above from Chief Beck highlights this. When citizen participation decreases, the ability to solve crime does generally decrease. But there is no evidence to suggest that citizen participation is linked to crime itself directly. While laws similar to that in Arizona could decrease citizen (or non-citizen, as the case may be) cooperation with police, that impacts how "tough" it is for police to do their job. Crime can stay exactly the same with or without participation, since the two are not directly linked.

So why do police chiefs confuse the two here? Either they are dumb as a box of rocks (I'm not willing to say that), or they intended to mix the ideas as being interchangeable (when in fact, there is no direct relation). The answer is that their asses are on the line, and police chiefs are generally pretty good about covering their politically-appointed asses. If something decreases closure rates directly, the chief looks bad and may be accountable. If something increases crime directly, and is out of the control of police (such as a legislative bill), then they are off the hook; as a bonus, if police chiefs can say something will "increase crime," then that gets people scared - if the same act will "decrease solving crime," then people will not be scared but rather demand police do better.

This reasoning assumes that this law (in Arizona) would actually decrease participation in urban centers throughout the country. Two problems with this: first, the law in Arizona is limited to Arizona, and if the police chiefs have been so committed to building community ties it should be easy to explain that Arizona's evil law (from their perspective) does not apply to them; second, that illegal immigrants already actively participate with police in investigations.

Towards the second point, one sheriff interviewed had something to add:

Babeu called the police chiefs' argument "flawed from the beginning." Cooperation from illegal immigrants, particularly those coming from Mexico, is already low, he said, because they are in the United States illegally and because of law enforcement corruption in their native countries.

From my experience, illegals will rarely work with police, even when illegals are the direct victims of crime for the very reasons just noted by Sheriff Babeu.  Of course, on a larger scale, anyone here illegally is technically a criminal, but I will leave that for another day.

So let's congratulate the nation's police chiefs who work hard to confuse what crime is, cover their asses, and try to fear the populace into making their lives easier.

Posted by: Soulblighter at 05:51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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