Stopping Crime

Robert Clancy

[Reprinted from: The Georgist Journal, No. 69, Autumn 1990]

Crime in New York has come to the fore as one of the city's most dreadful problems. Random or purposeful killing of taxi drivers, drug rivals, passersby, children, keep us in horror. "Good Samaritans" who try to help are among the victims.

One murder seemed to affect us particularly -- the killing of Brian Watkins, a clean-cut visitor from the clean-cut West, while trying to protect his family from subway muggers. Shock waves went around the country, and blase Hew Yorkers were shaken more than usual. It seemed to trigger a new determination to fight crime.

It could be that New York's "image" was particularly bloodied. After all, this cosmopolis, this center of international, financial and communication activities may be tough but does not want to be given up as hopeless. The crime rate is actually higher in some other cities, but all eyes are on New York.

And so we have talk of more police, tougher law enforcement, and "let us take back the streets," with speeches, demonstrations and parades. There now, the criminals had better watch out! Trouble is, we've been through this before -- more than once.

Macaulay and Henry George warned us that the new Huns and Vandals would cone from within our civilization. What we didn't know is that they would be so young.

Kids barely in their teens roam in packs and commit unspeakable acts of violence. They come from slums and housing projects -- and many are on drugs. They don't know anything abut the war on crime -- and they are continually being bred in the urban wastelands. Some do not even speak English. (One adolescent murderer knew only four words: "Give me a dollar.")

Nothing has worked so far. We keep talking about improving our education system, our law enforcement system, our welfare system -- all of which are strained to the limit. We'll just have to face the fact that this disease is spawned by poverty. It cannot successfully be swept out of sight or dealt with by palliatives.

The economic problem must be solved -- and at such time as the city (and not only the city) is ready to face this, we Georgists are ready to show how it can be done.