Sunday, November 09, 2008

The 100.

A contentious theory I've often heard advanced is that if you told the police in any major metropolis "One hundred people. You know who they are. Go round them up," and they actually went out and got The Usual Suspects off the street at the same time, that crime in the burg in question would virtually dry up overnight, and stay dried up until those evolutionary niches could be re-filled by migration or reproduction.

You know the hundred people of whom I speak, too: Records that wear out the "pg dn" key on the courtroom computer while being scrolled through. On a first name basis with the local Five-Oh by the time you're sixteen. The cops not only know who you are, but have a rough idea of where to find you at any given time, like when they need to ask questions about the latest convenience store stickup.

Is this just one of the unsolvable perils of modern society? Any comments or thoughts by my readers in Law Enforcement?

EDIT: Since this has already been misconstrued as me saying "Screw the Constitution, let's go round us up some miscreants! Yee-haw!" 'cause that would be so in character for me... (this is me, rolling my eyes,) allow me to clarify that what I'm wondering about is the theory that in any given area, 90% of the bad stuff that happens can be traced back, either directly or indirectly, to a shockingly small number of people. I know from having lived in a small rural town that you'd hear deputies mumble that if the So-and-so family (and that one no-good layabout over on Rocky Creek) would just pack their whole clan up and move to the next county, then Smallville would become a dull place of a Friday night.


The Freeholder said...

I've heard similar with numbers varying according to the size of the city in question.

Could it work? Sure, as a temporary solution. But the lure of power and money are too great, and the jobs will be filled. Usually after considerable bloodshed, not necessarily restricted to the bad guys.

The current system stinks, no doubt about it. I would rather solve the problem by either locking them up forever, no communication with the outside world allowed. Or we could expand the death penalty.

Or we take a page from Escape From New York and turn Manhattan Island into a huge penal colony. :-)

But the "round up the usual suspects" thing leads us right down the road that those of us in this part of blogland fear that The Obama wants to take us down. Extended, it could apply to us gunnies--"Get all the 4473s from all the gun stores and start rounding those people up."

Brad K. said...

Sounds about right. Problem is, among that "100" you would have a few that are just abrasive, and not true threats to society.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that, for any medium-size city or larger, the list would have to be a lot longer then 100 to achieve the desired result. Then again, corraling 300 is not 3X the time required for 100 since they self-attract.

The problem, actually, is not rounding them up because it's not that hard to find them. The issue is keeping them rounded up post-conviction, what with early release and hand-wringers driving the parole process.

I've often wondered what the result would be if the .gov provided them with bigger guns and marksmanship instruction, then instituted a policy of covert behind-the-scenes agitation to keep the turf wars in play.

True, some non-bad guy folks would get caught in the crossfire, but quite frequently those are the bad guy's customers, so I'm hard pressed to see a huge downside.

Don Meaker said...

The question is: Why are those jobs so lucrative?
Drugs:because of government restrictions. Cut supply, price increases.
Theft: because of government restrictions on 'use of force'. Cut cost( of being a thief) and supply goes up.

There is another side to the hundred criminals; The 300 police and lawyers employed by the government as their excuse for the rest of us to not string up the first 100.

The problem with stringing up the 100 is no recidivism. No criminals, no pension plan voted for the police.

perlhaqr said...

Don: I half agree with you. Only half, because while the thieves are harming someone else, drug dealers generally only harm people who ask for it. (Normal caveats about gang-war crossfire, of course, but you know this history of Prohibition as well as I do, I'm sure, and have noted that Coors and Anheuser drivers don't shoot at each other over "turf".) So, sure, string up the thieves, but leave the drug-dealers alone. They're just capitalists filling a market niche.

Hell, make the drugs legal, and available at Walgreens ("Can I get the Bayer brand heroin, please?") and when the cost drops through the floor, the theft rate probably goes down a lot, too.

And, as an ever so convenient side effect, when the urban youth stop shooting at each other over drug turf, the Brady Bunch loses a lot of their ammo (ha ha) for banning guns. I'm just sayin' is all.

BobG said...

One problem is that out of the 100, how many would be LEOs themselves, or in the local government?

Matthew said...

When I was an ADA the joke was that if fenced off two trailer parks, crime would be reduced to next to nothing. At one point, the chief of police made inquiries about de-annexing the land the trailers stood on from the city.

One of the great strengths of the 'three strikes and you're out' laws is that they do an excellent job of removing the career petty criminals from society.

Anonymous said...

"round up the usual suspects"

"how many would be LEOs themselves, or in the local government?"

"in fencing off two trailer parks, crime would be reduced to next to nothing."

New! Coming this fall to television:

"Hi! My name is Earl Casablanca"

The Freeholder said...

I don't think anyone has said or implied "screw the Constitution" in their responses. I'll make another try at answering.

The problem as you outline is unsolvable under any system, including a heavy totalitarianism. Crime has existed for all time in all societies, and will continue to do so. However, that doesn't mean that the problem can't be ameliorated to some extent.

As Don Meeker pointed out, in the current US (and many other countries) we have reduced the cost of being a criminal to a minimal level. The cost must rise drastically. Bad Guys have the perception that they can commit crimes with little danger to themselves, and they're usually correct. The "rapist shot dead when coming back for seconds" type stories are the exception, not the rule. Make them the rule, probably by liberalizing the laws on deadly force and self-defense, and crime will decrease as criminals come to understand that a failure in the victim selection process could well leave them dead. They are opportunistic predators, not suicidal (generally speaking). Many will figure out a safer way to make their living. Some will die quickly and some will simply get better at their trade.

It would take empirical experimentation to determine the level to which liberalizing deadly force and self-defense laws would address the issue as raised in. I don't see that happening in the US at this time.

staghounds said...

First of all, we HAVE rounded up that "hundred", again and again and again. That's why they out the "pg dn" key. There aren't many busy criminals, at least in my town, who are known but uncaught.

The main- like six sevenths- of the problem with the US CJS is that we've chosen a catch and release system. Catch and release works about three quarters of the time- MOST people who get arrested don't come back.

Remember, once is an accident, twice is training. C&R is much less effective with second timers, and drops to useless at 3. Almost everyone who comes back is a criminal like a tiger is a carnivore, and all that can be done with them is segregation from the prey.

Your "hundred" idea is absolutely true, IF you kept them rather than releasing them. Obviously the numbers vary with size and demographics. Knoxville's hundred might be Chattanooga's two hundred, Nashville's three hundred might be Memphis' nine hundred. But you'd DEFINITELY see a disproportionate drop in the numbers.

Some crimes would benefit more from this than others. Assaults (domestic and not), theft and burglary most of all, since in my experience they are the worst for repeaters. Drug crimes too, but they would be most rapidly refilled.

Child molesters, armed robbers, and killers not so much, since most of them go away when caught the first time.

Likewise adult rapists, since few choose to repeat and second timers go away.

Sadly, in most if not all American jurisdictions, if all you do is steal or thump people over and over, you have a looong run before you with little effective punishment. Unless you steal too much, or thump the wrong person.

We've chosen to let the consumer- repeat victims, of which there are many- bear the cost.

Submit word bimerism- the system in which ownership of, parts for, ability to repair and customize, or give rides in Z3s are the medium of exchange.

DirtCrashr said...

A friend of mine who worked and lived in Nairobi for many years told me some anecdotal stuff about the cost-driven effects of criminality there. He saw the problem as insurmountable - that criminality there was very high, while the cost was also very high. IN one case he saw a car stereo-thief get chased-down by police, and shot and killed on the spot. In another instance a cop completely ignored an active group of thieves who were going down the street smashing car windows and taking stuff, because he didn't have the backup to overcome their threat-level.
Sometimes other thieves who were caught were hanged in the street from lampposts.
The danger to the court system was that if you participated in a conviction and were seen by the family of the soon-to-be executed, you and your family life was forfeit as well - they would come after you. Maybe that's how blood-feuds start and go on for generations or until a generation is completely eliminated.
His other story: while at home one rainy and stormy African night, under the cover of the loud storm thieves broke through a CINDERBLOCK WALL into his house and stole the TV and a radio. He and his wife were in the next room and his kids were down the hall. He told me he was glad that he and they didn't wake up and surprise the burglars, because then they all would have been killed by the burglars to prevent their identification - that they would have had to do that because of the kind of justice meted-out by the courts and police.
And they still have a high crime rate in Nairobi.

TJP said...

Okay, well everyone brought up just about every major point possible in the discussion of this topic. I'd still like to expand on some of these points:

  Yes, I think the majority of forcible crimes against people and property are committed by a small number of goblins, but the number is probably something like 50 times larger (per city) than the above estimate. They do a pretty good job of killing each other--as evidenced by the late 80s violent crime wave--so that number varies.

  Yes, I think a major part of it is due to commerce surrounding black markets. I don't think sudden decriminalization will fix anything in the near future; the criminal organizations are too well established, and probably won't want to start filling out IRS 1099s. The immediate effect would probably involve heroin addicts in your local public areas, flopping around on the ground with yellow foam coming out of their mouths. This isn't a safety issue if one keeps his distance, but it's going to suck when your local town beautification committee needs a corpse removal subcommittee.

  That most crimes are committed by a minority of people has always given social engineers a false hope in a solution. Unfortunately, there are so many factors involved that the complexity of the problem makes its solution akin to discovering the exact amount of anthropogenic influence in climate change. Both arguments have opposing parties declaring that some single factor disproves the position of the other. Yet neither party seems interested in discussing the (unintended) consequences of their own proposed solutions. Ultimately social engineering, based upon immaculate models of society, ends either with an economic collapse or totalitarianism.

  Even when we do trace back the crimes to a "shockingly small number of people", it isn't always the same people. Previous criminal history doesn't always predict future behavior, although there is probably a strong correlation for crimes of the same type. A burglar could have twenty prior convictions, and then one day decide to show up on someone's doorstep in Cheshire Connecticut, and proceed to commit robbery, rape and arson and murder.

  Yes, I believe the problem is not completely solvable, especially when the people demand that the government enforce laws that make things even worse, or cost tremendous amounts of money and do nothing.

Joseph said...

It is pretty well proven that it is a small number of criminals that commit a large proportion of crime. That is why the 3 strikes laws. Even so, how many times has an "on probation" or "previous convictions" perp been re-arrested for another crime? I am against the whole "prison time" vs. calender time concept...10 years should mean 10 years.
In places like Nairobi, the criminals are more apt to be brutal and deadly because they know what awaits them when caught, and they will do anything to prevent it.

reflectoscope said...

Lemme see, 100? Well, what does 535 and 100 add up to? Might be a start. Jim

Jenny said...

Friend Dot just told me last night of a practice here once upon a time called "Blue Ticketing" - basically if you acted up too much, you'd find yourself roughed up and dumped on the next ferry out of state*.

Kicking the troublemakers out of the village (or town, or county, or country...) has a loooong tradition I'd imagine. Cheaper than prisons. Less messy and permanent that killing them.

Don't know as it's much of an option anymore - but your original point of "the usual suspects" seems fairly spot on, sadly.

*Of course, she also described the "Spenard Divorce" which is pretty much just what it sounds like. Owie.

Saladman said...

...whereas the "typical" U.S. burglar is estimated to have committed a median five crimes per year before being apprehended, chronic offenders- those most likely to be sociopaths- report committing upward of fifty crimes per annum and sometimes as many as two or three hundred (Blumstein & Cohen 1987). Collectively, these individuals are thought to account for over 50% of all crimes in the U.S.

Or, from formerly Great Britain: the Home Office report, Making Punishments Work, reported the results of a survey of prisoners in 2000, which found that the average offender carried out 140 offences per year. The variation was large, and offenders who admitted to a drug problem were committing an average of 257 crimes per year.

I don't see any great mystery or surprise there. It seems obvious that if you take, say, a career burglar off the street there will be fewer burglaries.

That's not to say criminals don't eventually retire and new ones don't start up. But I take issue with this: "But the lure of power and money are too great, and the jobs will be filled. Usually after considerable bloodshed, not necessarily restricted to the bad guys."

Excepting drug prohibition for a moment, there's not much of a hiring market for burglars, muggers and rapists. Crime is not a path out of poverty, and even among the poor its largely people with poor time preferences or sociopathic tendencies who pursue crime. Most importantly, "after considerable bloodshed" implies that established criminals have some kind of code of conduct or balance of power that mitigates their violence, and that removing them creates a vacuum filled through bloodshed.

If anything, the opposite is the case. Getting away with crimes encourages repeat offenses, and sometimes an escalation in the severity of crime. And even in muggings and burglaries, cooperation and non-resistance is no guarantee of safety for a victim.

Rabbit said...

Lately in the DFW area, we've been seeing a zero sum recidivism rate on home invasion robberies.

I think the Good People around here are not convinced of the 'lower crime number statistics' the municipalities are crowing about and are taking a proactive approach to their own protection.

One armed home invasion, one set of dead home invaders. Repeat as needed. God, but I love Texas.


Anonymous said...

There are crime studies all over the lot. The one that my cop amigos agree with says a typical career criminal will commit one major (worth 1 year or more) felony every 44 hours.

Mr. Typical will therefore commit 200 serious crimes a year.

When they are arrested they are typically bailed within 12 hours, and will resume their career.

Time to trial is a tad over 36 months, and half the time witnesses cannot be found, arresting officer has changed dept's and cannot testify, etc., so Typical has less than a 30 percent chance of seeing jail for every 600 crimes he commits.

American criminals have no fear of the CJS. Or of the police. The only thing that will cause a criminal to hesitate is a substantial possibility of meeting effective resistance from a potential victim.

A good shotgun for home defense trumps the whole system. And those who would disarm us are no more than Pro-Crime Activists.

Pete Allen

Billll said...

I remember seeing an interview with some police source once in which he stood in front of a big map of north-east Denver and north-west Aurora. Many pins were stuck in that map, 90% of them in large groups in 3 fairly widely separated blocks.

I'm sure the "usual suspects" are well known to the Denver and Aurora cops. Perhaps if they were taken in to custody and quickly given stiff sentences, and if the word on the street became that the cops had a few more of those sentences left over... You know, Bunkie died while resisting arrest, so we've got this here long trip to the joint that didn't get used, who wants it?

By way of discouraging the others.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Check history: Did dumping criminals in Van Dieman's Land and the American colonies drastically lower Great Britian's crime rate?

theirritablearchitect said...

" would have a few that are just abrasive, and not true threats to society."

Hey, I live there!

Abrasive is my middle name.

perlhaqr said...

Pete: Good data, but... can you source it? I'd like to use your argument, but "I heard from sumdood on the internet" doesn't cut much ice for formal argumentation.

Joe said...

As near as I can tell the bell curve is immutable in all things. You can nearly always figure that 5% are doing 90%. Wheather its crime, work, genius, revolution, whatever.

Matt G said...

I'll give the concept a solid "B".

I arrested a truck thief a year and a half ago. There had been a lot of smoke around him and his doings. Suddenly a rash of trailer, construction equipment, and building supplies thefts up and dried up.

We had a problem with car burglaries-- a bad one, a few months back. We knew two kids for sure, but not the other ones. When we caught them in the act and rounded up the rest of 'em (6 in all), the car burglaries stopped cold.

We had a guy that we flat-out KNEW was stealing anything metal that he could load into his pickup, to sell for scrap and convert to cash for meth. We didn't suspect it; we KNEW it. Couldn't quite prove it satisfactorily. Finally arrested him with some monuments that he'd stolen to sell for the bronze, and his parole got revoked. Suddenly, people could leave their aluminum John boats in the front driveways again.

But, of those kids burgling cars? I hadn't heard of a couple of 'em. And there's always someone new to town to steal your bass boat that you've left out because it's so safe, you know?

staghounds said...

"This is is where the real war is, a war worth fighting. I've never been to Afghanistan and I'm not going to Iraq. But they don't seem to be places that matter, not to me. Maybe, just possibly, we can win a war in Iraq, but sure as hell we're losing the war at our doorstep. You go up to the top of the block and look around. From that roof, you can see power and Parliament, you'll see where all the big people make their money... But if you look down by your feet, you'll see where the war is."

Actually, for me all this is a moral question. It's a shame we have chosen NOT to say that public safety is the highest domestic concern there is, and that our neighbors' right to come home to an unviolated house, or to walk back to that house unraped, is more important than building welcome centers at the state line or providing poor educations.

It's almost all driven by the lack of fear of consequences- everyone knows the not enough cells math.

Imagine how many people want to steal, but never do, or never get caught when they do, and stop when they think of the slight risk they have just taken?

But it shouldn't be about deterrence first. It ought to be, if we catch you preying on our neighbors, it will cost you. And if you do it again, we'll lock you up so you can't, or kill you.

We're all upset about Moslems killing four thousand Americans, but that's nothing to the damage criminals do. Can you imagine the liberty for good people that would result from a fifty billion dollar campaign against the insurgency in the housing projects?

Not to mention the welding together of the country, instead of the increasing separation between prodictive and parasitic populations in your own town.

perlhaqr said...

staghounds: I know I must sound like a broken record on this thread, but... if we stopped locking people up for having some weed to smoke or sell, we'd have a lot more room for thieves and muggers.

the pawnbroker said...

three things stand out from the above thread...

1.) access to dope, not dope itself, it the root of a preponderance of crime; decriminalization is the obvious solution.

2.) on-the-spot capital punishment at the hands of the victim of life-threatening crime is the best deterrent there is.

3.) (1) and (2) ain't gonna happen...job security up and down the line will make sure of that.


staghounds said...

Perl, I'd like to find someone in my county's 1500+ confined population who is locked up ONLY for having some weed to smoke or sell. I've never seen one locked up for it, but I've only been a full time State (not federal, a hundred pounds will get you some time there) prosecutor for fifteen years or so. And ymmv where you are.

As opposed to having some weed to smoke fifteen times, or refusing to stop smoking the weed while on probation over and over, etc.

In theory world, drug laws, like gun laws and immigration work laws and safety laws, are all bad. In real world, there is something to say for both sides.

If the social and economic costs of legal marijuana are only a tenth as high as those of legal alcohol or legal tobacco, I'll take the social costs of illegality any day.

bmayer said...

"If the social and economic costs of legal marijuana are only a tenth as high as those of legal alcohol or legal tobacco, I'll take the social costs of illegality any day."

That doesn't make any sense unless you would also ban alcohol and tobacco.

staghounds said...

FWIW, I would outlaw the commercial sale of tobacco if I couldn't make its use accountable in insurance/disability coverage.

And by quite a few measures, prohibition was successful in its goals, and we still drink much less than we did in 1900. I'm not saying I'm for it- as I said earlier, morally all substance controls are indefensible as applied to the substance desiring individual, considered as an island.

Once upon a time, all drugs were legal. We as a culture have experimented from time to time about trading the costs/benefits of legality with the costs/benefits of various aspects of control and illegality. None of it is etched in stone.