I saw an article a couple of days ago from a nominally reputable news source, published under the headline “Retailers urged to re-think police calls for low-level crimes.”
Unsurprisingly, I fall into the camp that would take the exact opposite approach. As long as people are rewarded, or at a minimum not punished for criminal behavior, there’s no disincentive at all against continuing to engage in that behavior. I’m no sociologist, but it feels like a reasonable assumption that if I get away with some number of these “low-level” crimes, at some point I may be tempted to escalate towards criminal actions that aren’t minor. That’s pure speculation based on my estimation of basic human behavior, of course.
I’d hoped we could all agree on something as basic as stating “crime is bad.” Apparently here in the 21st century even that is a bridge too far.
While I’m perfectly willing to concede that some crimes are worse than others, I’m nowhere close to the idea that we shouldn’t enforce the law, deter would be criminals, and punish those who choose to live outside the law. I’d go so far as to say there should be more arrests and prosecutions for criminal activities rather than fewer. Otherwise, have the courage to change the laws so everyone has an equal opportunity to pass counterfeit notes, shoplift, or engage in whatever other petty criminal behavior strikes their fancy in a guilt free environment.
Retailers may be willing to look the other way, but catering to a criminal element by condoning or enabling bad behavior feels like precisely the opposite of the actions we need to be taking to discourage and penalize criminal activity.
1. Being polite. I realize the social convention that tells us it’s bad to walk around punching people in the face exists to protect all of us from each other. God knows there are probably of plenty people out there who would like nothing more than the opportunity to slug me with no repercussions, but still, there’s something infuriating about being in a position day-in-and-day-out of being annoyed to your wits end and not being able to say or do anything about it because it would be considered rude. The people who don’t get typical social cues shouldn’t be covered by normal social conventions. When I’ve turned my back to you and you keep talking, I should be allowed to punch you in the face. Invade my personal bubble? Punch in the face. Have no clue that others aren’t interested in a monolog about your top five worst medical problems? Punch in the face. Twice. You get the point. When someone lives outside society’s norms, maybe they shouldn’t be protected by those norms. If your feelings get hurt and your nose gets bloodied in the process, well, maybe that’s just a lesson learned… and yet for some reason when you tell someone they’re being an obnoxious douchecanoe, you’re suddenly the asshat. There is no justice.
2. Celebrities. You know the funny thing about celebrities behaving badly? Their asshattery is only covered by the news outlets because we all tune in. Justin Bieber getting a DUI? News. Brittany Spears flashing her hoohaw. News. Kim and Kanye doing anything? News. Except the thing is, it’s not news. People get DUI’s, show their lady parts, and are generally stupid every day of the year without it being the lead story on every website and newspaper in the country. Celebrities get the attention they do not because they behave badly, but simply because we allow it to be so. It’s the classic example of ignore it and they will go away. Or at least they’ll continue to get into trouble, but do it more or less in anonymity and without it becoming a spectacle. It’s a crying shame that we all can’t just agree to ignore these tools until they stop getting the ink they so desperately want.
3. Policy. As a rule, policy is something I’ve always considered a guideline. It’s the user’s manual version of how to do things – 98.9% of the time, policy coverers just about everything you’ll deal with on a regular basis. Conveniently, though, policy very rarely has the force of something more codified, say like a regulation or a law. That means there’s almost always a way to get an exception to policy (or in more extreme circumstances just ignore the policy because it doesn’t pass the common sense test within the context of new or extenuating circumstances). No one is doing themselves a service when the blindly follow something just because “that’s how it’s done” or “that’s the policy.” You see, the problem with blind adherence to anything is that it so often comes with unintended consequences… and those so very rarely end well for anyone.
Sometimes the best thing about being a blogger is that at those moments you have no idea what you’re going to write about, the universe drops a plum in your lap. I was just sitting down to dinner when one of my neighbors – the one who is more OCD about his lawn than I am and who I actually get along with – knocked on my back door. It seems our mutual neighbor has gotten himself into a bit of a scrape with the fine people of Douglas County, Kansas. And by “scrape,” I mean he got his ass locked up for allegedly robbing a couple of convenience stores… while allegedly using his finger as an imaginary gun. With many, many wonderful pictures of him in the stores, somehow I’m having a hard time imagining a Kansas judge or jury looking kindly on an out-of-towner allegedly doing anything other than just passing through.
The whole story is out there in the local media, but I’m not going to link to it as a modest nod towards neighborhood peace and tranquility. With that said, I hope they’re planning on giving him a nice long stay at one of the fine Kansas State correctional facilities. With those boyish good looks, I’m sure he’ll make an excellent wife for one one their lifers who’s looking for a fresh start with a new special someone.