Pat's View: We need a scaled approach to crimes, drugs and homelessness
By Patrick Robinson
I think we are in a new era of crime. By that I mean it's well beyond just stealing stuff to sell it, though that happens and is facilitated by sites like Offer Up and Craigslist.. We are in the era of angry crimes. It's not enough to just take your property.. there's no elegant cat burglar thievery here.. this is smash and grab writ large. They want to mess you up and hurt you because you have a better life or because they simply have nothing to lose.
It’s painfully obvious that the era of synthetic opioids is fueling many of these crimes. When heroin is unavailable the prevalence of Fentanyl either on its own or more commonly combined with Xanax or other drugs is at levels that are killing an unprecedented number of people.
When you couple the drug driven, thefts, robberies, beatings, and hair trigger shootings, with police over reactions, you see that “I don't give a shit.. I'm stealing this" attitude is now more pervasive than ever.
This isn't politics (though since everything seemingly is.. yeah ok) it's about effective prevention and certainty of punishment. The recent incidents at the King County courthouse prove this point. If you are unfamiliar there was an attempted rape and within a 24 hour period a reporter outside the building was attacked while doing an interview.
Those criminals are too close, too tolerated and have zero fear of retribution. It's true... we can't put them all in jail. But it seems as if we permit their EASE of access too willingly. If you are homeless, addicted, and a criminal to boot, no.. you cannot pitch your tent 25 feet from anywhere you choose. This.MUST.Change.
The argument is that the courts cannot process all the crime. The jails cannot hold all the criminals. That we’ve created conditions that are at some level fundamentally unfair or inhumane or otherwise not right so we must 1. Remove police from the equation since the criminals are driven by drugs or mental illness and 2. Provide more societal equity to alleviate the conditions that led to them becoming homeless, or drug addicted or mentally ill in the first place.
We are told the first step here is to decriminalize the minor crimes such as petty theft, or minor amounts of drug possession (regardless of the drug), or any of an entire range of misdemeanors.
The vast majority of crimes are committed by a small percentage of the population.
In the United States we have 698 people in jail or prison for every 100,000 people. Can we lock up the homeless or mentally ill or the drug addicted? No… not in the traditional way. The US is also the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people in prison which is 500% increase in the last 40 years.
So we need to make a choice here. And that’s the operational word. Choice.
We need to give the homeless, the mentally ill (when possible), the criminals and the drug addicted a choice. But that choice cannot be to simply carry on as they are. That’s not working.
I believe we need to expand and completely reform the approach to prisons. If this is sounding like the Chinese re-education camps it’s not meant to. What I’m suggesting is that we need to separate and isolate these people from the rest of society by steps that are increasingly harsh depending on severity and recidvism. If you steal a car.. you don’t pay a fine. You go to a place in the middle of the woods where you stay for 3 months. Do it again and you don’t go back there, you go to a place with more restrictions. If you are merely homeless you can’t pitch your tent anywhere you like or park your RV. You are given a choice to live in a decent place, provided by the state or federal government that’s clean, safe but controlled. You can leave anytime. But you can’t live on the street. Job training, health care and counseling would be provided. If you are drug addicted and commit a crime you go into a treatment center.. no phones allowed, also isolated until you are clean. If you return to the pattern you are taken to increasingly harsh living conditions.. to a point.
What we’ve done through tolerance is made it intolerable for those of us who obey the law.
That’s not how to make it better.
Totally agree with all of it.