What Is Behind the Crime Crisis?
PEOPLE ordinarily think of crime as being committed by violent “criminals.” True, hardened criminals cause some of the crime. But the crime problem is much more than that.
Police Commissioner P. V. Murphy of New York city says: “Crime is woven into the fabric of our society.” And a former U.S. attorney general, R. Clark, notes: “Crime reflects more than the character of the pitiful few who commit it. It reflects the character of the entire society.”
These men, like others, say the entire system is crime ridden. But, how can it be said that crime is ‘woven into the fabric of society’? Let us see.
Slums and Drugs
One major thread in the ‘fabric of society’ closely identified with crime is the central city slum. As huge urban areas have grown up, millions of deprived persons have been pushed into rat-infested “ghettos.” They often lack even basic utilities, like water and heat. Lack of education, sickness, disease and crime have always thrived there.
But in recent decades television has made ghetto dwellers more keenly aware of the ‘outside world’s’ prosperity. The unskilled poor people do not share this affluence. Crime increases as many of them become frustrated and hardened. They turn to drugs. Much crime today is drug related, since to sustain his habit an addict may need fifty dollars a day. He gets this by mugging or by stealing and selling merchandise worth several times that amount. For safety, people with money have moved from the crime-plagued cities to the suburbs. Addicts follow the money; thus crime and drugs spread to the suburbs.
However, not all crime can be blamed on poverty and drugs.
Injustice and Hypocrisy
Affluent, even wealthy, young people have seen the injustice accorded the socially oppressed. They have stirred up unrest and revolutionary action, hoping to win guarantees of ‘civil rights’ for all. How this movement has affected crime is shown by E. Smith in the New York Times Magazine:
“There were those who warned us a decade ago that even as we overlooked law-breaking by civil-rights advocates, however worthy that cause, and however unjust the laws, we were creating a climate in which others could say, ‘They get away with it, why can’t we?’”
This writer says that this kind of law-breaking has contributed to weaving crime into society. But other reasons for disenchantment with modern life foment crime.
Political nations have fought wars, indiscriminately bombing, maiming and killing thousands of innocent victims in this century. The clergy bless the weapons and armies that kill. People—especially the youth—find it impossible to overlook these hypocritical political and religious “crimes.” Laws of the state are thus disregarded. Biblical morality, falsely represented by the clergy, is spurned.
Big business, also, is often labeled “criminal.” American consumer-advocates tell of adulterated foods sold in markets and of lifesaving devices that corporations have refused to install. One consumer expert writes in America, Inc.: “The law is much more comfortable sentencing a telephone coin box thief to five years than sentencing a billion-dollar price-fixing executive to six weeks in jail.”
M. Mintz and J. S. Cohen, authors of America, Inc., survey some of these apparent irregularities and ask:
“Is it to be doubted that one of the roots of alienation and unrest is the multiple standards of justice, one for blue collars, another for white collars, still another for youths with long hair, and yet one more for corporations?”
Yes, ‘corporate criminality’ has become an excuse others to engage in criminal practices, further weaving crime into society. A young woman who stole from unguarded purses and coats at a party reasoned: ‘My pickings were peanuts compared to your average embezzler, not to mention the Mafia, or major business corporations.’
People who think this way do not steal simply for lack of money. Rather, they often believe that stealing from ‘the system’ is right and even necessary in itself! Fear of imprisonment will not necessarily alter their course. “Punishment is no deterrent,” an item in the Saturday Review observes, “in a society that large numbers of its members see as being fundamentally and deliberately unjust.”
Many of the complaints leveled against the modern commercial system without a doubt are justified. But is this the only real reason members of the ‘counter culture’ have for their own crimes? No. There must be deeper reasons. How do we know?
If ‘the system’ is entirely to blame for their stealing and immorality—why do they steal from one another? When three Free Stores were opened for Yippies in New York’s Lower East Side, everything was stolen, including counters and window panes! Demonstrators at rallies report losing sleeping bags, backpacks and even tents—to whom? Apparently other demonstrators!
Also, recently, while a prominent spokesman of the ‘counter culture’ was on trial in Chicago someone broke into his New York apartment and stole a color TV. Was that justified? “That,” he declared, “was banditry.” Harvard sociologist S. M. Lipset correctly notes: “Stealing is stealing, even if you call it revolution.”
Further, the largeness of ‘the system’ is used as an excuse for major crimes. Consider the logic of a New Jersey auto thief:
“What I do is good for everybody. First of all, I create work. I hire men to deliver the cars, work on the numbers, paint them, give them paper, maybe drive them out of state, find customers. That’s good for the economy. Then I’m helping working people to get what they could never afford otherwise. A fellow wants a Cadillac but he can’t afford it; his wife wants it but she knows he can’t afford it. So I get this fellow a nice car at a price he can afford; maybe I save him as much as $2,000. Now he’s happy. But so is the guy who lost his car. He gets a nice new Cadillac from the insurance company—without the dents and scratches we had to take out. The Cadillac company—they’re happy too because they sell another Cadillac.
“The only people who don’t do so good is the insurance company. But they’re so big that nobody cares personally. They got a budget for this sort of thing anyway. So here I am, a guy without an education, sending both my kids to college, giving my family a good home, making other people happy. Come on now—who am I really hurting?”
But there are other factors that are frequently mentioned.
Trained for Violence
The availability of guns in many parts of the modern world, while not causing crime, does contribute to it. Some handguns, so-called “Saturday night specials,” sell new in the United States for fifteen dollars. Detroit, Michigan, police estimate that there are a half-million handguns circulating in just that city. Some have argued that men would fight even without guns. Detroit Police Sergeant F. Williams admits that that is true, but adds: “The other guy might end up with a busted lip, but he’d still be alive.”
Further, it must be remembered that modern society world wide includes thousands of young men who as soldiers have had weapons usage woven into their view of life. Crime and criminal elements are romanticized on television. Israel’s huge increase in violent crime in recent years is attributed to the “steady stream of American crime shows in their living rooms.”
The Criminal Justice System
Paradoxically, the very institutions used to fight crime are also among those frequently blamed for boosting its rise. The courts, for instance, are accused of “coddling” criminals. But the courts complain of being understaffed. Courts do not write laws, but merely carry out those made by legislative bodies.
Judges point to the failure of the prison systems, calling them ‘revolving doors.’ A ‘soft’ criminal goes to prison, learns brutal methods and comes out to commit a more sadistic crime. Notes Washington, D.C., Judge C. W. Halleck: “All we do when we put people in jail is to make them worse than they were before they went in. . . . no thinking judge can conceivably believe that long jail sentences are going to do anything to stop crime . . . The court process is just one small part of the whole picture.”
But other people ask: ‘Why don’t the police “crack down” on criminals?’ The police, too, are restricted. For instance, in the U.S. the Fourth Amendment forbids a policeman to make an unreasonable search or seizure. If you live in the United States, would you want that law repealed so that a policeman could invade your home any time he wished? As matters now stand, the courts and prisons cannot handle the criminals the police are sending them. How would they cope with even heavier loads in a ‘crackdown’?
Matters other than ‘catching criminals’ also receive high priority among police activities; they search for missing children, recover stolen property, make sure businesses are properly licensed and provide emergency medical assistance. There are disputes among neighbors, common drunks and traffic violators to be dealt with.
Too, changes in the economic situation have affected all kinds of employment, including police work. In the 1930’s there were 17,000 New York city policemen; now there are over 30,000. A big increase? No! Due to a shorter work week, increased vacation time and overtime pay requirements, it now takes five men to do the work three or four did in the 1930’s. New York Police Captain V. Rohe concludes: “There are no more men on the street today than there were then, despite the fact society has become more complex.”
Yes, crime is so ‘woven into the fabric of society’ that the criminal justice system composed of police, courts and prisons can do just so much; each “is just one small part of the whole picture.”
The Individual’s Role
Each of the factors discussed so far helps us to understand why crime is increasing. It is largely inherent in the system, ‘woven into society.’ But it must be borne in mind that in the last analysis, it is individuals who commit crimes.
In a word, the problem is largely a moral one. Jewish philosopher Will Herberg observed some time back:
“The moral crisis of our time consists primarily not in the widespread violation of accepted moral standards—when has any age been free of that?—but in the repudiation of those very moral standards themselves.”
Crime is part of the result of ‘the repudiation of moral standards.’
What policeman, court or lawmaking body can completely prevent a person from doing wrong if he really wishes to do wrong? Crime in America remarks: “Bankers rarely rob banks. . . . The poor do not fix prices. . . . But among those capable of crime each finds his own way.”
That “each finds his own way” is also made abundantly clear by acting FBI Director P. Gray:
“Officeholders who occasionally compromise principle or a public trust in exchange for girls and favors, businessmen who pad their expense accounts and deflate their income-tax returns, would be stunned if anyone said they were not responsible and law-abiding citizens. . . .
“The workingman who patronizes after-hours bars and neighborhood bookmakers, those who buy merchandise at prices and under circumstances that clearly suggest it is stolen, contribute to the survival of crime in our society—though they would be aghast at being called criminals.”
‘Each found his own way’ to commit crimes when the police went on strike in Montreal, Canada, in 1969. An observer remembers:
“I don’t mean hoodlums and habitual lawbreakers, I mean just plain people committed offenses they would not dream of trying if there was a policeman standing on the corner. I saw cars driven through red lights. Drivers shot up the wrong side of the street because they realized no one would catch them.”
There are, indeed, as we have seen, numerous causes behind the current crime crisis. But there are others that you may not be aware of, causes peculiar to our time. The Bible explains these.
Shortly before his death Jesus Christ gave a “sign” to mark the “conclusion of the system of things.” His words, taken with Revelation chapter six, predict global war, famine and pestilence within the space of one “generation.” We have been in the “conclusion of the system of things” since 1914.
However, at the same time, Jesus also predicted, “because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” Jesus knew what man’s inborn sinfulness and heart attitude would lead to by this time—excessive “lawlessness.” Crime, which seems to permeate every fiber of modern society, causes many to harden. Love for God and his high moral standard cools. Further “lawlessness” results.—Matt. 24:3-12, 34; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
Since the Bible has accurately predicted what we see today, we can trust what it says about yet one more cause behind today’s crime rise. That other element is an invisible spirit person—Satan the Devil. The Bible foretold that Satan would be ousted from heaven at this time. With what result? “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” With his days numbered, he further aggravates today’s lawless spirit.—Rev. 12:12.
But how can one protect oneself from crime at this time before the “system of things” ends?
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Religious hypocrisy moves many to ignore Bible morality
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Overloaded courts send criminals to crowded prisons. There they often learn to be worse criminals
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Most People Obey Laws If A Policeman Is Watching—But—Do You Obey As Readily If A Policeman Is Not Around?
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CRIMINALS MAY STEAL, BUT DO YOU BUY WHAT THEY STEAL?