Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Restaurant Takeover Suspects Caught

A recent commenter slammed me for daring to suggest that social programs do little to combat crime when career criminals are left to roam the streets unimpeded.

As if to prove my point, the Oakland police department nabbed two of the alleged culprits. And guess what? According to the police, they are career criminals.

Allow me to quote a bit from The Montclarion's article, linked above.

The two key suspects are on parole. One of them will be charged as a "third-striker." And here's what police spokesman Jeff Thomason had to say about them:
"These aren't guys who lost their jobs and got desperate.... These are people who had access to guns and get off on the thrill of robbing people."

First of all, I want to point out that the Oakland police did an admirable job tracking down these suspects. If they are convicted, we owe the cops a debt of gratitude for making the city safer for the average restaurant-goer. Provided the takeover robberies end for a month or two, I might even return to a few Oakland eateries.

This situation also bolsters the point I've made for some time now. I realize that liberals love to point out that poor economic conditions drive people to lives of crime. But just because this is likely true, that doesn't mean the solution is a bunch of welfare or social programs aimed at eradicating poverty (which is impossible anyway, since poverty is defined as below a certain percentile).

I'm not against providing reasonable public services to people of all walks of life. Inner cities need quality teachers just as much as wealthy neighborhoods.

But the reality is that social programs are in vain when crime runs rampant.

There are several reasons for this. Children look around them to see what opportunities are available in their community. When criminals seem to be living carefree lives, they are naturally drawn into that "line of work." Violence also creates chaos, which makes it impossible for non-criminals to have a quiet moment to work on getting their lives together.

Before one cent is spent on social programs, we need to round up the criminals and put them away. I commend the police for their work, but Oakland needs much, much more. The city should fully implement the broken-windows theory, punishing all sorts of criminal behavior.

And, yes, liberal activists should stop worrying about trees in Berkeley, suspend their concern about economic justice, and band together to fight crime first and foremost. Anything else is hypocrisy and doomed to fail.


  1. Banding together to fight crime sounds great. Some people in neighborhoods around Oakland are trying to do just that by forming neighborhood patrols, keeping each other informed about suspicious activity, communicating more with police, etc. What I don't understand is why we liberals should also "suspend our concern about economic justice."

    If what you actually mean is that we should suspend our support for social programs that you don't believe will be effective, then that's one thing, but rising unemployment, rising consumer prices, stagnant (at best) wages, and dramatic inequality of educational opportunities are real and serious problems, just as crime is a real and serious problem. We should no more "suspend" our concern about economic justice than we should "suspend" our concern about criminal justice, in my opinion.

  2. David -

    I both appreciate and understand your viewpoint. I just disagree.

    I believe a reasonable level of public safety has to happen first, before strides can be made in lifting people out of poverty. Otherwise, I think what happens is those we might help are too cowed by crime (either in the sense that they become criminals or just live in fear).

    As an analogy, consider the war in Iraq. Most liberals agree it has gone very badly, and that civil society can't take hold because there's no security. That's why they argue we should have used far more troops.

    Same thing in the violent inner city. Security first, then we can make some progress on other issues.

  3. As I've said before... police mop up after the crime. In this case they did at least a very workmanlike job of it. I object to paying any lip-service to the "social" aspect of criminalilty. It's the perpetrators who did wrong... not the rest of us. This is the land of opportunity. To complain that opportunity is insufficient for "social" peace is just plain stupid. If there is any social aspect to criminality it is a palpable lack of shame among the criminal class. These miserable felons ignored any honorable options and decided to prey upon the innocent. THEY are the ones at fault... and deserve the consequences.