Stop-and-Frisk Doesn’t Cut Crime
New York City in 2012 had the lowest murder count in at least 50 years, and it is on pace to have even fewer murders this year. At the same time, the number of stops by police officers has dropped precipitously from more than 200,000 in the first quarter of 2012, the high-water mark of the program, to just over 21,000 in the third quarter of this year. If stops alone were holding back a hidden tsunami of crime, the city would have been overwhelmed by now…
A new analysis by the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, of nearly 150,000 such arrests suggests that they netted few serious criminals. According to the report, only 1 in 50 arrests, or 0.1 percent of all stops, led to a conviction for a violent crime; similarly, just 1 in 50 arrests led to conviction for possession of a weapon. Nearly half of arrests resulted in no convictions because those arrested were never prosecuted; had their cases dismissed; or received an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” which means that the charge is dismissed if the person stays out of trouble for six months or a year.
Voter-Shaming Finks Should Mind Their Own Business
“The privacy of the ballot booth is a core American value,” declared James Valvo, director of government affairs for Americans for Prosperity, two years ago. “Allowing individuals to make their own decisions about their government … free from coercion from either side, is paramount.”
Valvo was criticizing “card-check” legislation to let unions organize through other than secret ballots — and he wasn’t alone. Ballot secrecy, declared AFP Virginia’s Ben Marchi, was “the bedrock of our democracy.” AFP waged a loud and sustained campaign on behalf of the secret ballot in union fights.
Too bad AFP doesn’t practice what it preaches. If it did, then it would not have sent out “voter audits” tattling on people who, AFP believes, do not vote with sufficient regularity.
As the Chesterfield Observer reported last week, county resident Steve Serrao got one such report card in June. It listed him as a non-voter. His wife, Renee, who teaches government, strenuously disputes that. “We’re contacting you and your neighbors today to let folks know who does and who doesn’t vote,” the report card says. “As you can see below, your neighbors who have voted are concerned about the community’s well-being. Are you?”
Nancy Meacham of Roanoke got a similarly ominous audit from the group in November — as did others around the state. Many of them felt, quite rightly, that the mailings amounted to rank voter intimidation.
AFP wasn’t the only group this year to employ such tactics. So did the Democratic Party of Virginia. “The chart below shows your household’s public voting record in past elections as well as an empty space which we will fill to indicate if you vote in this year’s election on Tuesday, November 5th,” reads that party’s mau-mauing missive. “We intend to mail you an updated chart after the election that will show whether or not you voted. We will leave the space blank if you do not vote.”
According to state officials, the left-wing Voter Participation Center likewise sent out similar letters to citizens it deemed “BELOW AVERAGE.” “After the election,” the VPC wrote, “we will re-evaluate your voting record and hope to share it with your neighbors to see if there is improvement.”
The VPC gained notoriety last summer when, as The Times-Dispatch reported, it sent 200,000 voter registration forms, many to “already registered voters, as well as to children, non-citizens, the deceased and family pets.”
This was not fraud itself, but it was a long way from seemly. In 2008, a felon used a form sent by the VPC to vote illegally, for which she received a (suspended) 10-year sentence. Is AFP proud to emulate the tactics of the VPC? For that matter, is the liberal group proud to emulate the tactics of the conservative one?
None of the senders should be proud of invading other people’s privacy and harassing them to do something they are under no obligation to do: The right to vote also entails the right not to vote.
No one should have to justify exercising a right; rights, by definition, justify themselves. Nevertheless, for many people, not voting is an entirely rational choice: The cost of learning about the candidates and the issues often outweighs the benefit to be had from casting a ballot whose odds of making a significant difference in the outcome are infinitesimal.
Many people make a much bigger difference through other means — mentoring kids, volunteering, charity and civic groups. Government is far from the only avenue for doing good.
Yet the threatening tenor of the mailings suggests there is something shameful about exercising such a right. Public shaming of this sort is nothing new; it has been used often throughout history — usually by exceedingly undemocratic and illiberal regimes, such as ancient Rome, Puritan America, contemporary Iran and 20th century communism.
It is the communist culture — citizens informing upon citizens, show trials for dissidents and backsliders — that echoes most loudly in the letters: “Comrade Jones has squandered the opportunity he has been provided to strive for the betterment of the People. The People have a right to expect that Comrade Jones will direct his every effort to the class struggle. By setting his own ego and contentment above the interests of the proletariat, Comrade Jones has demonstrated behavior unworthy of a Bolshevik. He has betrayed his fellow citizens, who have committed themselves completely to the collective good. …”
Many people — harried single mothers, fathers working two jobs, adult children caring for sick parents — simply have more pressing things to do on Election Day than vote. AFP and Co. might think otherwise. If so, too bad: It’s not their call to make — and none of their business in the first place.
N.B.: Ben Marchi is no longer with AFP-Virginia. He writes: “Like the Roanoke Times, who published the names and addresses of conceal carry permit holders, AFP-VA’s actions are unfortunate and not in keeping with its past record of forcing Speaker Howell to record subcommittee votes, pushing successfully for specific spending cuts and exposing legislators’ abuses of the working papers exemption to FOIA laws.”
Quick, Better Create a New Federal Agency to Fix This!
“The federal service is suffering its greatest crisis since it was founded in the first moments of the republic,” scholar Paul Light writes in his book “A Government Ill Executed.” …
Light has outlined how, when Congress passes its mandates, new layers of management are usually created to enforce them. In a study of “frontline” government jobs that matter greatly to the public — revenue agents, air traffic controllers, park rangers — he found that employees had to report up through nine layers of official management and 16 layers of informal management. By Light’s calculation, the average federal employee now receives policy and budgetary guidance through nearly 60 layers of decision-makers.