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Friday, May 31, 2013


By Chuck Ream

Police are not solving crimes like they used to, and now we can prove it.  Law enforcement dollars would be better spent protecting our safety or finding criminals than on persecuting potheads.
The urgency of spending local law enforcement dollars wisely is illustrated by what currently happens in Michigan following a rape. Thousands of “rape kits” in Michigan have not been processed, yet huge sums are spent on cannabis law enforcement. These priorities are wrong.
It is relatively unknown that law enforcement has been continually less effective at finding real criminals since it began to focus on Drug War.  Murderers, rapists and robbers are apprehended far less often in 2009 than they were when Drug War began in earnest in 1971.

            Data by Riedel, (2008) “describes the decline in the percent of homicides resulting in arrests and charges from over 90% in 1960 to 61% in 2006”
 The percentage of rapes and robberies “cleared by arrest” has declined far more than homicides. Burglary (17.4% solved), and car theft (12.6% solved) now appear to be low risk occupations.
Criminal justice author Scott Christianson points out that while crime in the USA has dropped the number of arrests went from 3.3 million in 1960 to 14 million in 2004. He asks           
…if reported crime has been going down and arrests have gone up, what
accounts for the plummeting arrest clearance rates for murder, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft?

Part of the answer must involve drug law enforcement…. Instead of arresting suspects for burglaries and other serious reported crimes, cops today spend much of their energy going after illegal drugs. Their arrest rate for drug possession (especially marijuana) has shot up more than 500 times from what it was in 1965.”
 Ousey and Lee (2010) make it clear that “there are several good reasons why this trend in clearance rates is disconcerting…. First, it raises questions about the effectiveness of recent law enforcement policies and practices…it seems curious that homicide clearance rates have been declining during a period in which incarceration rates have been sharply rising…. Second, it signals a decline in punishment certainty and threatens to undermine deterrence principles, a key foundation of our criminal justice system. Finally, lower clearance rates indicate that the state is ineffective at insulating citizens from violent offenders, which may contribute to negative social reactions such as loss of faith in public officials, an increased sense of fear and insecurity, and a general proliferation of firearms….”
It is sometimes argued that small scale cannabis arrests serve to reduce the amount of serious or violent crime.
The “broken windows” theory of public safety asserts that a police emphasis on prosecuting small scale crimes will lead to the prevention of larger crimes.
Data from Harcourt and Ludwig at the University of Chicago prove that, if they have any effect, small scale pot arrests increase the frequency of other crimes. The authors concluded that pot arrests took officers off the street for long periods of time and distracted them from being able to focus on fighting other crime. Veteran cops call pot busts “a waste of time”. These arrests drain time and resources not only from police, but also from courts, jails, prosecutors, and public defenders.
Criminologist Harry Levine (2010) asks, “Is this what Americans want their police to be doing – arresting enormous numbers of young people, disproportionately Black and Latino,  and destroying their futures, for…pot possession?”
Americans are usually surprised to learn that the effectiveness of law enforcement at solving crime has taken a dive since police turned their effort to Drug War.
If cannabis is damaging to our society we should not make it a low priority. However, data from Thomas and Davis (2009) shows that about 94% of the “social costs” of cannabis have to do with the costs of enforcement, not the cost of health problems.
There is no situation where a problem with dangerous drugs is improved by turning their manufacture and distribution over to criminal gangs!
 Police prefer to chase potheads, but wouldn’t your family be better protected if officers were preventing crime or finding real criminals?

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