Jay Paris is a typical liberal idealist who advocates the soft approach to juvenile crime by turning cops into social workers. Such schemes promise much and deliver little, but there is never a shortage of anti-punishment Leftists willing to give them whole-hearted support for they lead to more ‘investment’ of tax-payer money and are sold to the public as cost-cutting.
Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured a friendly interview of Mr. Paris by Melanie Kirkpatrick of the Hudson Institute. Much is claimed for his community policing.
I can write on this topic with some experience because I was working with young offenders in a British town when community policing was born – the brainchild of a police chief who came to his job from academia and not by working through the ranks from the streets. The police chief had big political ambitions, which soon blossomed once he had taken early retirement.
The simple idea of ‘community policing’ on which much reform of the ‘Juvenile Justice System’ is subsequently built, is that if policemen get to know the communities they patrol and investigate, build personal relationships, and get involved in youth work, local youths will learn to love them and stop offending.
There is some little truth in this, though we might ask why this is necessary in communities where much taxpayer money is already spent on youth workers, social workers, drug counsellors and probation officers. All of the foregoing ‘professions’ do occasionally turn a young delinquent away from crime, but are never cost effective.
They continue to soak up tax-payer money and usually grow the public sector for several reasons. The first is that ‘doing good’ is rarely subjected to cost-effectiveness. After all, if just one kid is saved, isn’t that worth it? Only a grinch or a bigot would measure such good works in dollars.
Secondly, once you have professionals employed, they make sure that any perceived failure is due to not enough resources.
Thirdly, the Far-Left in academia, always tuned in to those policies that punish the diligent and law-abiding whilst rewarding the anti-social, are the people who carry out surveys, write reports and manipulate statistics.
Unfortunately, many modern cops are only too happy to trade catching young criminals for getting out of uniform, playing sports and joining the social workers doing stuff that is never judged by results.
Almost all kids who get into crime are the victims of very poor parenting, absent fathers, wayward mothers and the feckless cultures of certain communities. Social work of any kind is doomed to make little real difference. A police officer, no matter how motivated, cannot be a substitute parent for more than one or two kids at best. Working with the parents would be more effective if society in general was judgmental and adult fecklessness was uncomfortable.
Many cops live in the communities where crime is a problem and many more have grown up in them and then fled. They are usually pretty cynical about social work and social workers.
What followed community policing in the UK was the sharp-witted of both professions found an easy working life.
Before long, ways were found to produce good statistics. First, offences were dealt with by ‘cautions’ instead of court appearances. Next, ‘two cautions’ were introduced, which was followed by the doctrine that keeping kids out of the Juvenile Justice System altogether was the answer, for labelling kids as criminal made them criminal.
This kind of progress is the opposite of the approach that reduced serious crime in New York by coming down hard on petty crime first.
Two things are effective in reducing crime. One is being caught and severely punished. This is tough on kids who face life without good parents.
The second is fashioning a society that expects two-parent families of a mother and father who consider parenting to be their prime responsibility. The proof that this works can be seen without the need for researchers. Communities where traditional Christian values survive produce few young offenders irrespective of income levels and other challenges.
Unfortunately, any society successfully bombarded with Hollywood and Far-Left propaganda will fail kids.