Safe in My Home-Time to Legalize Drugs?

Stealing Stuff, Security, and Trust of Neighbors

I recently heard Mark Fisher on NPR. The guy had his home broken into, and laptops and money stolen.  The real kicker, was the burgular went on Mark’s son’s Facebook page, and posted a picture of himself pointing to the money, while wearing Mark’s  brand new coat.

Mark learned about the system, and about himself. ” I don’t feel as safe any more.  I’ve lost trust in my neighbors. The system is overwhelmed, only 12% of burglars are sentenced.”

Two officers confided that they and their colleagues rarely press hard on burglary cases because the courts almost always let thieves go with nothing more than probation. Maybe that’s why four days after we handed over the photo, we were still waiting to hear from the detective assigned to the case.

Burglaries are up 11 percent citywide this year, to a total that will top 4,000 — most likely a reflection of continued hard times, especially since virtually every other category of crime is down. D.C. police made 30 burglary arrests in the last two weeks of November, up from six in the same weeks last year. Nationwide, police solved only 12 percent of burglaries last year, according to FBI data; in big cities such as Washington, the figure often is barely more than half that high.

I just completed a three month Citizen’s Academy, where we met once a week for 2-2 1/2 hours with a different part of the Santa Fe and State of New Mexico law enforcement community.  It was an amazing experience, quite the eye opener.  An officer told us that 95% of burglaries are by druggies.  95%!!!!!

Granted, sustainable mixed use, mixed incomes create safer “eyes on the streets” neighborhoods, with folks out and about, walking to their daily tasks.  But if you ask me (or even if you don’t), making drugs illegal is really stupid!

The collateral damage is unacceptable, from outrageous corruption and violence in Mexico, Central America, and American cities, to the huge prison industry.  Police officers risking their lives daily, so we can have illegal drugs. It’s time to reclaim all that twisted creativity and human ingenuity!

So this kid, Rodney Knight,

“He’s really had a fairly minimal criminal history,” the lawyer said of a 19-year-old who had already been arrested seven times, faced criminal charges in Virginia, New York and the District, and skipped out on court appearances twice — and that’s not even counting his juvenile record.

In our burglary, Knight probably got a longer-than-usual sentence because of the bizarre twist to his crime. At the sentencing, he claimed that the burglary was almost accidental: “I was homeless, hungry and lost. I was wandering around. I knocked on your door. I was attempting to ask for help. And then it just happened.”

Well, sort of. If Knight’s invasion of our house wasn’t planned, it surely was more than a fleeting impulse. We know this because within two hours after he took my son’s computer and cash, as well as my new winter coat, Knight used my son’s laptop to take a photo of himself wearing my coat and holding my son’s money. The burglar also wore a satisfied, gloating grin.

Then he posted that picture on my son’s Facebook account. The gall and stupidity wrapped up in that act made our case something of a sensation. Newspapers, Web sites and TV stations from New Delhi to New England carried the story after I wrote a column about the burglary. Before D.C. police even assigned a detective, more than 150 news outlets had published the burglar’s photo.

But while Knight’s face went viral, the authorities made it clear that they had bigger fish to fry. As one officer put it to me, “We do not have the resources to take this kind of crime seriously.”

Treating burglary as an offense every bit as corrosive of personal security as an assault could overwhelm an already stressed system. A Justice study concluded that it would cost on average about $20,000 per burglary to collect DNA evidence and identify and arrest a suspect. That doesn’t begin to account for the cost of convicting and punishing those burglars.

Then Judge Epstein, after assuring me that “I take property crimes very seriously,” sentenced Knight — who before the plea bargain faced up to 15 years in prison — to a term of 312years: 27 months for the burglary and 17 months for the weapons offense.

I just don’t see this as a cost effective way to be a civilized society. How would you go about creating a lifestyle where Rodney Knight’s world supports him in making choices that more directly lead to him discovering and developing his talents and contributions? “Rodney, how would you give yourself a better world?”  Dude, share it here!!! Together we can make sustainable real!

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