How to Reduce Crime in L.A.

Excellent op-ed by Joe Domanick, senior fellow in criminal justice at USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism today in the LA Times --Stop LA's Crime Engine. His premise:

A fixation on arrest and crime statistics to gauge police effectiveness is standard in law enforcement — and politics. But the question police chiefs should be asking is what strategies will both prevent crime, short-term and long-term, and help stabilize L.A.'s communities.

The gist of the argument:

The heart of the crime problem in the state is its prison and parole systems....93% of everyone who enters prison in California will be released, and that the vast majority of them will return to places like South L.A. where social services to assist parolees reentering society barely exist. As a result, ex-cons are unprepared to do anything other than commit another crime and go back to prison. A 1997 Department of Corrections survey of parolees found that 85% were chronic drug or alcohol abusers, 70% to 90% were unemployed, 18% mentally ill and 10% homeless.

...Parole policies and laws that effectively stigmatize former inmates compound the problem. Until recently, the operating philosophy of the state's parole system was to return parolees to prison no matter how minor their violations. Typically, they return to their communities with little or no money. Employers routinely shun them. Laws deny them driver's licenses, access to public housing and other services. The effect on communities is devastating.

Dominack praises LA police chief Bill Bratton for realizing that America cannot "arrest its way out of its crime problem." But, he says its not enough and he lays out the guantlet for Bratton:

If Bratton wants to leave a genuine legacy of long-term crime reduction and community stabilization in Los Angeles, he'll have to lobby hard for changes in California's prison and parole policies, not just make more arrests.

We hope Chief Bratton picks it up and runs with it.

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    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 10:46:12 AM EST
    Whenever crime statistics fall, the wingnuts use these stats as a political football the say "incumbant X" is weak on crime. In other words, fewer arrests = coddling of criminals. The wingnuts pay no attention to the inconvenient fact that fewer arrest might have something to do with fewer crimes actually being commited. I remember reading that the Riodan campaign used this tactic to great effect in the LA mayoral elections, a few years back. I'd love to hear of a method which measured the effectiveness of law enforcement without taking into account simplistic arrest statistics, but I haven't yet seen it. It sounds like these guys are on to something good. Now, if we can just get troll politicians to stop exploiting crime statistics in order to sow fear in the electorate. Yeah, right.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 12:57:17 PM EST
    One thing we could do is to stop playing games with crime statistics, such as the using widely quoted "FBI" index which includes major violent and property crimes, but does NOT include drug crimes which account for probably half of felony arrests.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Adept Havelock on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 07:56:11 PM EST
    "There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics." -Benjamin Disraeli.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 09:26:58 PM EST
    Of course, what he left out of his argument is the underlying culture in South L.A. that to a certain extent thinks of crime as a career choice. There's also a matter of things like Special Order 40. LAPD cops aren't able to arrest a former felon for immigration violations. They have to wait for them to commit another felony. Of course, by that time they're probably headed out of the country.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 10:45:26 PM EST
    Nice racist commentary, Lone, as usual. 'South LA' is code for inner city black -- it's unique to Los Angeles that there is crime in the inner city, right? As for immigration law, you ever ask a cop? LAPD is against being turned into immigration cops for several reasons, not least of which is that it is A WASTE OF THEIR TIME. As for 'headed out of the country,' hilarious. People come here to work, but keep on pretending that 'terrorists' are streaming back and forth across the borders, so you can promote your real agenda: RACISM.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 11:22:41 PM EST
    I think it is a strategic mistake to advocate for social programs that benefit ex-offenders. (I've posted a comment on another post about Recidivism on this same point, and over on my own blog). Calling for social programs like this plays directly into the hands of people who want to characterize welfare recipients as criminals and cheaters. Don't fall for it. You can accomplish just as much good for ex-offenders by simply advocating for programs for the poor, which they are when released - and usually their families are as well. If they weren't poor before, the money spent on criminal defense lawyers and the lost earnings during incarceration will often render a family destitute. We need to create broad-based support for helping the poor again. You will never generate broad-based sympathy for criminals, sorry. Most people are not criminals and cnanot sympathize. But most people face money problems of some sort in their lives; most people know that becoming disabled and unable to work would riun them financially; and most people know that their earnings are correlated to their level of education. They can sympathize more easily with the newly-unemployed, the disabled, and those deprived of educational opportunities. We have a chance of winning support for the poor by focusing on these problems, but not by focusing on the needs of recidivists. And you will better integrate them into society if you strengthen their families, neighborhoods and social networks. You don't reintegrate someone by giving him a career option, a car, and his own apartment. The person might be self-sufficient temporarily, but if they are isolated they will not be reintegrated. If their families and friends are better off financially when they are released, because we advocated for the right programs, they will have a safety network that meets both their immediate needs for work, food, and shelter, and their long-term needs for interdependency with other humans around them. I fear that the approach of giving handouts to released felons may be misguided - it is not politically viable in the long term, and it is not necessarily the best way to help them in the short term. Focus on helping the poor, not a subset of the poor who have already earned the public's resentment.

    Re: How to Reduce Crime in L.A. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 11:26:24 AM EST
    Posted by Dru Stevenson at January 24, 2005 12:22 AM good post, good idea's, why contaminate it with "...not a subset of the poor who have already earned the public's resentment." that's not my opinion of individuals returning to "the world", they paid their dues/penalties and should be afforded all the opportunities of society, not the reverse, which leads to recidivism.