From: Vincent Campbell (VCampbell@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Wed 10 Sep 2003 - 11:57:49 GMT
Very interesting discussion guys.
Can't add much in the way of stats (although I do recall Barry Glasser's The
Culture of Fear offering a lot of data showing the realities of crime in the
US compared to US media representations, although I don't recall whether
that data would support or refute either of you! I do think there's
something in there about the ethnicity of civilians shot and killed by cops
in Ney York over the last 20 years or so- I believe they were almost all
african-american, including notoriously the guy who was shot multiple times
by a group of cops for reaching for his wallet).
Still some observations and opinions for what they're worth.
<The recent peaceful blackout in New York is an excellent
> example of how much things have improved. Simply contrast the riots in
> 1977 with last months peaceful and relatively crime free blackout.>
In the UK, the lack of violence in the blackout was related to the post-9/11 situation with people perceived as being initially not sure as to whether this was another attack or not and a combination of fear and stoic resiliance was the net result. Any "noo yorkers" out there to offer a comment?
<That great society is defeating crime, we ought to imitating their
> [John 1] Interesting that during this time the number of people
> incarcerated rose from 200,000 in the 1970's to 2.3 million people
> today, with a further 1.8 million out on early release schemes and
> parole. You surely cannot be arguing for fifteen fold increase in the
> crime rates since 1970?
> [Jonathan 2] No, I am not arguing about crime rates here - I don't know
> the facts. I do know that US crime has dropped significantly and part of
> the reason is attributed to higher incarceration rates.>
I do think that these comments go together- locking up over 2 million people isn't defeating crime it's displacing it (CCTV does the same thing). Can we ever defeat crime, I dunno. Ever since reading Pinker's The Blank Slate this summer, I've become a much more stoical darwinian leftist
(yes, can't get rid of the lefty in me that easily), and as such suspect that criminality will persist whatever efforts at social engineering we may try. Unlike my government (see below) I see no value in blindly, and blithly following whatever the Yanks do assuming they're doing it right.
<[Jonathan 2] Whilst I accept that the security lobby (and that
> the police) have an interest in exaggerating crime, I do not see how the
> increase in crime rates can be attributed to privatisation of the
> industry and a powerful lobby in politics getting tough on crime. Am I
> right in thinking you are saying that "tough on crime" measures
> aggravate crime rates?>
There are two ways that tougher crime measures may aggravate crime rates. The first is by extending the range of things deemed criminal behaviour. For example, in the UK the government (inspired to an extent by the US in its approach to crime fighting- even hiring US cops to head schemes) is introducing anti-social behaviour crimes, and has also criminalised things like grooming over the internet. I'm not saying that these things are necessarily wrong policies, but part of becoming tough on crime means criminalising behaviours previously a matter of civic concern. This widens the remit of law enforcement and means more cases, more trials, moer prisoners.
Second, comes the reciprocal spiralling of crime that occurs when
crime fighting becoms tougher. Again to use the UK as an example, gun crime
is rising in the UK, and whilst regular police are not armed, the armed
response units that offer back up to unarmed cops are being used more and
more frequently. So the debate is heating up about whether or not to arm
our cops (most people and cops themselves aren't that eager to do this, and
even those in favour aren't champing at the bit, and come across as rather
disappointed that this may be the future). One argument against is that if
determined criminals know that cops are going to be armed, they will tool up
more frequently as well, and you'll get a cycle of escalation of the
severity of crimes committed. Indeed, one of the arguments against armed
police in the UK is the fear that we will descend into the kind gun culture
of the USA with everyone shooting at everyone else (cops, criminals and
civilians). Recently in the UK they've started using tasers and pepper
sprays and still use rubber bullets (although no one calls them that
anymore, after dozens of people have been killed over the years when they've
been used in Northern Ireland). Incidentally has anyone else noticed the
way that the producers of these devices and police users have changed their
name from 'non-lethal weapons' to 'less lethal weapons' in a very overt
acknowledgement that these things can and do kill people.
There is another aspect to tirades about rising crime as well, and
that is the new opportunities for new kinds of crime, obviously a whole
range of new crimes made possible through the internet that didn't exist 15
to 20 years ago, or mobile phone thefts etc. etc. One thing in the press
currently is the RIAA's ridiculous attempts to prosecute MP3 file-sharing
for breach of copyright, a principle that has applied to music only for an
astonishingly small part of its history (recall the days before
pre-recorded music when musicians made a living by actually going around
playing their music, and allowing others to play their music). I'm fed up
of fucking pop millionaires complaing about losing money from file sharing
(Kylie has been recruited with the slogan 'feel the music don't steal the music' for example) when they will still make millions from live shows, already have made millions from massively overpriced CDs, and routinely exploit the songwriters and backing musicians who actually do the work in the first place 9and who don't earn millions). As an academic whose creative output receives bugger all financial return and is supposed to be doing it for the benefit of all to see these talentless scum whinge from their tropical mansions about people who actually like their music and want to listen to it... well it makes me cross. I'm all for a UN sanctioned invasion of Celine Dion's record company where she (as a weapon of mass annoyance) will be captured, and then disposed of in a controlled explosion for the betterment of all humankind....
Sorry rambling way off topic with that last bit.
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