Here’s to a world where crime doesn’t actually pay
It’s official: Crime really does pay.
Americans have bellyached forever about “those SOBs in Washington we pay to rob us blind!” Last week the Washington City Council flipped the script and approved a plan that will pay people not to commit crimes.
Modeled on a 2010 Richmond, California, program, D.C.’s “Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act” will, among other things, pay 50 individuals up to $9,000 a year to not rape, rob, murder or rip tags off mattresses without authorization.
In addition to cash, criminals – or those deemed likely to be victims of violent crime, i.e. drug dealers and customers, prostitutes, etc. – are taken on trips to college campuses and sent overseas to London, Paris and South Africa.
When the program debuted in 2007, Richmond was America’s ninth most dangerous city, with 47 murders out of a population of 106,000. By 2013, Richmond had the lowest number of homicides in 33 years. So as crazy as paying people not to murder might seem, identifying those most likely to kill or be killed might actually not be that crazy.
I know. How did it come to this?
In Washington, 50 lab rats will take the “Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results” program for a test spin and, if that also works, how long before Los Angeles gives it a shot?
Of course, in L.A. we’re pro-union and it won’t take long before local hoodlums organize for better wages. How’s a felon supposed to get by on a measly 9K in this town? One Rolex brings in more than that.
While it might seem insane to pay people to obey the law, neither Richmond, California, nor Washington, D.C., are the first cities to literally throw money at a seemingly intractable problem.
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg toyed with the idea of paying kids for showing up for school, with bonuses for good grades. Similar programs have been proposed in Boston, and many other cities, with one school in Cincinnati actually handing out the checks.
My teachers were mostly nuns. Fear was our incentive.
If this sounds like an idea the Marx Brothers might have come up with, consider this 1926 exchange between Groucho and Chico in “Animal Crackers.”
Groucho: (to Chico as a musician) What do you fellows get an hour?
Chico: Oh, for playing we getta ten dollars an hour.
Groucho: I see ... What do you get for not playing?
Chico: Twelve dollars an hour.
On more than one occasion readers of this newspaper have offered to pay if I’d stop writing this column, a deal I’d gladly jump at if you’d put a little more meat on the bones.
Still, the notion that the only way we can get a grip on crime is to pay people not to murder or be murdered is heartbreaking. You’d think not getting slaughtered would be it’s own reward.
The Richmond and Washington experiments might produce lower murder rates but what does that say about our capacity to solve problems? The trend today is capitulation.
Los Angeles is the hit-and-run capital of North America. The solution? Give everyone a driver’s license. Can’t solve the drug epidemic? Legalize pot. Can’t (or won’t) secure the border? Legalize illegal immigrants. Kids not being fed by negligent parents? Feed them at school. Teen pregnancy? Free condoms. Can’t improve math and science scores for girls? Segregate schools by sex. If you can’t beat ’em, accommodate ’em!
College campuses are creating “Black Only” dormitories at the request of African-American students! We’re slowly resegregating society under the mistaken belief, somehow, that will end racism, sexism, or whatever “ism” happens to fill up our Twitter feeds.
Here’s hoping paying criminals not to murder is an idea so morally debased it’s too crazy even for Los Angeles.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.