Here's bottom line: Don't do the crime. Don't get the time.
When we talk about crime in America and what to do about it, there are lots of topics that come up -- from accusations of racial profiling to discussions of the social factors that influence why crimes are committed.
There are criticisms of law enforcement officers, laws and judges -- even while neighborhoods vow to take a stand against violence and drugs.
And there are even some who defend the criminals themselves -- suggesting that they are the victims of a system that targets them and labels them from the very minute they become teenagers.
And while those comments make for an interesting discussion, they miss a very important part of the puzzle -- the real reason why crime in America does not really seem to be getting that much better.
The fact remains that there are still way too many people who think social and personal responsibility are someone else's job.
They do not seem to get that if you do not want to deal with a rough arrest or bad jail conditions that you should not get arrested in the first place.
And because of the strain on our prison system, we are not as diligent as we should be about teaching these law breakers the lessons they need to learn -- that if you commit crimes in this modern world, you ruin your life.
With a more "scared straight" approach, we might have fewer teenagers whose futures have been destroyed at age 16 and who are facing a lifetime of court appearances and jail time.
So how do we do that?
The answer is simple really -- we stop making excuses and allowing petty complaints to clog our system.
If you do not want to have to deal with authorities, do not loiter on street corners when the rest of the world is home where they belong; do not run up a rap sheet for drugs and violence; and don't associate with known criminals.
If you get an education, stay out of trouble and pay attention to what the rules are, you will become a contributor to society, not a drag on it.
If we get tougher and mean it, we might just see fewer people choosing a life of crime -- because it really won't pay, not in this county.
And that is a goal that really will make a difference.
Published in Editorials on July 30, 2009 4:16 PM