Stockton, California, a city of nearly 300,000, has struggled for years with debt payments. Earlier this year they entered talks with city creditors to discuss debt repayment options, likely to conclude that mediation will not be sufficient to deal with the estimated 26 million dollars of a budget shortfall the city is expected to face next year. Stockton is set to become the largest city in the United States to declare bankruptcy.
Now, as Stockton has been forced to make drastic cuts in the police force, the city is facing high crime and rampant street violence. This is not news to many: if you reduce the police force to such low levels you should expect crime to follow. Michael Jacobson, director of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York agrees, “When you make those kinds of drastic cuts, you have to believe that there’s an effect. It’s unimaginable that something like that couldn’t make a difference.”
Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York notes that although violent crimes has decreased in many parts of the country, for the inner city the crime wave of the late 1980s never disappeared. Butts acknowledges that there are certain neighborhoods that feel like war zones.
But this begs the question: Why do some cities see such an increase in crime when the police force is cut, but other cities, who also experience extensive lay-offs, have crime rates that remain flat or decline?
Some criminologists argue that the we have not seen the effects of the cuts yet. Maybe, but I think we have a much bigger problem than a reduction in the police force in Stockton, and it is much more nefarious; it is human nature. Many would argue that human nature is naturally evil and when it lacks morality and religion, it becomes unbridled, potentially causing rampant violence.
John Adams, one of our leading founding fathers, said it best, “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Clearly, if we let our passions run wild and fail to “bridle” ourselves, no city can afford to hire enough police officers to eliminate chaos and retain order.
Clearly, given the budgetary short-falls it is likely that more cities will face the financial difficulties and debts Stockton now faces. Many cities will have to continue to dismiss their police forces, even when they are experiencing high crime rates. But fighting issues of the human heart will take more than money and a few more officers with guns. It can only be done with the will to fight the natural inclinations of the human spirit to perpetuate evil, and more money will not be sufficient to win this battle.
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