Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Plan for Crime

Sunday's Chronicle carries a story on the four major candidates for mayor, and their positions on crime. Not surprisingly, all are opposed to crime and pledge to take actions to reduce it. Aside from that not so startling revelation, the only aspect of the article that is informative is the absolute lack of plans on the part of any of the candidates.

Sure, they all spout off vague generalities, like hiring more officers and reducing inefficiencies to pay for them, but this hardly qualifies as a plan. As a public service--which is motivated by my selfish desire to be free--I will once again put forth a specific plan to reduce violent crime in Houston.

I would agree that reducing inefficiencies is a proper step, but in a much different fashion than the candidates endorse. Perhaps the most effective way to reduce inefficiencies is within the police department itself. Houston's police are charged with enforcing myriad laws that involve voluntary, peaceful activities between consenting adults. If the measure of efficiency is the most effective use of resources, arresting individuals for actions that do not violate the rights of anyone is horribly inefficient.

I do not have solid numbers to indicate how much police effort is involved in apprehending individuals for drug offenses, prostitution, and similar "crimes", but I think it is safe to say that it is substantial. My own limited exposure to the criminal justice system indicates that more than half of all the cases involve drugs. Rather than spend valuable resources protecting individuals from their own self-destructive actions, the police should be spending their time fighting real crime.

Further savings can be achieved by de-criminalizing other activities currently regulated by the city, such as building codes, restrictions on signs, tags on taco trucks, and a myriad other ordinances that violate the rights of individuals. In each instance, significant cost savings can be achieved and the city will take important steps towards recognizing individual liberty.

Of course, such measures will not be considered by any of the mayoral candidates. They embrace the idea that government should regulate individual behavior, and only differ in the extent and specific details of that regulation.

While improving government efficiency certainly has merit, it is really a non-essential issue. If one endorses policies that violate individual rights--as all regulations do--greater efficiency simply means more effective methods for violating rights. This is hardly a goal to aspire to.

Houston's city budget is bloated, not because of inefficiencies, but because the city government is engaged in activities far beyond its proper functions. Seeking minor cost savings is no different from having a diet soda with a double-meat burger and supersized order of fries. It is a mere pretense. The few calories saved by drinking a diet soda pale in comparison to the gluttony of the food. The obese must change their behavior if they desire to lose weight and regain their health. City government must do likewise if it is to truly fight crime--it must restrict itself to protecting our rights.

As it is now, most Houstonians probably violate one law or another on a routine basis without even knowing about it. For example, even our esteemed mayor was guilty of having an unregistered bicycle. If the mayor is unaware of the law, how is the average citizen to know? And why are our police charged with enforcing such absurdities?

If the mayoral candidates truly wish to do something constructive about crime, they would do well to begin by defining it. Until they do, they will be unable to control crime and average citizens will find their most mundane activities criminalized. And that is a crime that our next mayor should address.

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