Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shelby County Mayor is Tough on Crime?

I read with interest today that county mayor A.C. Wharton says fighting crime is his top priority. Hmmm, let's see what can the mayor do to fight crime, since he has no police force that answers to him like Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton? He says he can give jobs to the criminals. While I think jobs can help, they aren't a panacea. I do believe there is much that the county mayor can do, but giving jobs to criminals isn't the answer.

Here is what I suggest the county mayor do to impact crime:

1. Call a meeting of the justice community and layout the plan
2. The plan would include tracking repeat offenders. Anytime we have a person under arrest who has been arrested more than "n" number of times, they need to get an enhanced look. One problem we have is "repeat" offenders understand the system. They know they can continue to repeat with impunity. We have one person in Shelby County who has been arrested over 200 times. There are over 18 people who have been arrested over 100 times and there are over 17,000 people who have been arrested 10 times or more. That last group accounts for more than 250,000 arrests and that doesn't include misdemeanor citations.
3. Crank up the "workhouse" again. Have the inmates grow the food we feed both the correctional center and the jail.
4. Build tent compounds to house these thugs, not the multimillion dollar facilities we have been building. If not tent compounds, research lower cost facilities.
5. Include the churches and the business community into training programs for de-thuggifying these people.

The essence of what we are talking about here (crime fighting) is behavior modification. Psychology 101 tells us to change behavior you can apply either positive or negative reinforcers. The jobs approach, without any other aspect, is a "positive" reinforcer, which will not work. It won't work because there are currently jobs out there, but these criminals don't have the moxie to go get them. I believe a negative reinforcer, like increased punishment followed by positive reinforcement, like job training for those who are in the jail or county workhouse is the only way to change criminal behavior. Some criminals won't change no matter what you do, the others will cease and desist once they come to understand that the punishment for their crime will be unacceptable.


Anonymous said...

You are right on track. How do we make this happen?

John Harvey said...

Political pressure is the only way this plan gets implemented.

Under Director Godwin's leadership, the police are making arrests and much of that is being driven by tools we are developing. Our side will get better with officers paying a lot more attention to repeat offenders, parolees, etc. and looking at data for patterns.

The hard part is going to be getting the county to not spend millions building glamour slammers. All we need is some good old fashioned work camps. Tents don't cost much!

The other thing we need is for the DA and the judges to get on board.

I have no control over the latter portions of this "plan", but I'm doing all I can to develop a system that helps the officers take the bad guys off the streets.

Oh, I almost forgot, pray for our efforts. There is nothing stronger.