Wednesday, February 21, 2018

We're better off with less crime

I would like to respond to a letter in one of the dailies about why we need "crime and lawbreakers". Of the few letters to the Editor I do read, this has to be, at best, the most pointless use of ink and paper or, at worst, offensive to basic moral sensibilities.

The author, K David, asserts that without the damage caused by crime, certain professionals like police, lawyers, doctors, nurses, judges, etc, would lose their livelihood. While it is true that certain people are paid to work in the criminal justice system for the benefit of society, Mr David seems to be saying that we should be grateful for the phenomena of crime. If I follow his repulsive logic, then perhaps he is hoping that the severity of crime would stay the same or worsen, but should not improve, because less murders would be a financial loss to lawyers and doctors, and if it's one thing those two desperately need, it's more money.

While I believe various factors influence the level of criminality in any society, for example, economic disparity, a dysfunctional educational system and biology, and that sound policies will undoubtedly ameliorate such a crisis, however, I am convinced it would be impossible to eradicate lawlessness from humanity.

Nevertheless, it would still be enormously better to make earnest, thoughtful attempts to reduce rates of crime than to leave it to fester and destroy society. If we were to set aside Mr David's moral outlook, which I insist is thoroughly loathsome, we would still have many practical, mundane arguments for why less crime is beneficial to all.

In the area of property crimes alone, consider the billions of dollars spent on doors, locks, bolts, alarm systems and private security, and then there is the taxation of citizens to man and equip police, etc. All this money could have been allocated to building roads, bridges, curing diseases and feeding starving children. There is terrible suffering in this world, aside from that inflicted by human malice; surely, if we could curtail our criminality, it would free human and physical resources to serve other urgent causes.

In the same way American programmers adjusted to the outsourcing of their jobs in the 90s, so, too, police and security guards can qualify themselves in other fields. Communities that lived in fear of violent crime would be insecure, suspicious and distrustful, which could lead to more violence and vigilantism. Think of the economic and cultural effects on cinemas, restaurants and places of worship when women, and even men, fear to venture out at night.

If the so-called benefits of violent crime are measured in dollars legally earned by some, then its devastation is measured in much more than broken limbs and dead bodies of victims—the ravages of crime far outweigh any perceived advantages. What kind of an idiot would say that we need rape so that police can catch the rapists, nurses and doctors can treat the rape victims and lawyers can defend and/or prosecute rapists?

Mr David's letter was alarming to me because it may be representative of the half-baked ideas about morality many in our society entertain. If someone can suggest that crime benefits society because a few people get paid to deal with it, then they are morally clueless.

Rakesh Mohan