Coping With Crime in a Chaotic World
ARE you afraid to go out at night? Do you need two or three locks on your doors and windows? Has your car or your bicycle ever been stolen? Have you had the radio ripped out of your car? Do you feel threatened in certain neighborhoods?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you are trying to cope with crime in a chaotic world. What can you do about it? Can the Bible help you cope?
The Criminal Mentality and Justice
In the world of crime, there are three basic elements: the criminals, the police, and the victims. What is necessary in order for you, the potential victim, to be able to cope with crime? Can you influence any of these three elements? For example, can you change the criminals?
Well, many criminals have made crime their career. They have chosen it as an easier way of life. ‘Why work if you can live off what others have earned?’ seems to be their philosophy. The muggers know that the average victim will hand over his or her money without a struggle. And with the odds against being caught and sent to prison so great, for them crime does pay.
Moreover, court procedures are complicated and time-consuming. In many countries, there are too few courts, judges, and prisons. The criminal caseload overwhelms the system. The wheels of justice turn so slowly that the situation is as the Bible described it over three thousand years ago: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” As this Bible principle indicates, there is little hope of a solution by reducing the number of criminals or reforming them.—Ecclesiastes 8:11.
What about the second element, the police? Is there any hope that the police will master the situation? They themselves will answer: With the laws often weighted in favor of the rights of the criminal, with unscrupulous lawyers who manipulate the law to get a guilty man off, with communities reluctant to shoulder the huge expense of more and bigger prisons, and with the understaffing of police forces, there is little headway they can make against the avalanche of crime.
That leaves the third element, the potential victims: us, the public. Is there anything we can do to help ourselves better cope in this almost anarchic situation?
Practical Wisdom and Common Sense
The Bible book of Proverbs states: “Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability, and they will prove to be life to your soul and charm to your throat. In that case you will walk in security on your way, and even your foot will not strike against anything.” This counsel can apply in situations that are likely to make one a victim of crime. What are some ways in which practical wisdom can help us in this field?—Proverbs 3:21-23.
Criminals tend to be like predatory wild beasts. They look for the easiest prey. They do not want to risk a struggle and possible capture if they can get the same return from an easy victim. So they go after the elderly, the sick, the disoriented, and the ones who may be unaware of a dangerous situation. The thugs choose the time and place that best suit them to attack. Here is where potential victims can use practical wisdom.
As the Bible describes them, lovers of evil often do their works under cover of darkness. (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11, 12) It is true today that many crimes against people and property are committed at night. (Compare Job 24:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2.) Therefore, where possible the wise person will avoid being out in dangerous areas at nighttime. In the crime-ridden city of New York, the daily police record reveals that many people get mugged after sundown and especially after ten o’clock, often as they return to their apartments. The predators are on the deserted streets looking for victims. Hence, if you have the choice of waiting for a bus or a taxi or walking through a dangerous area, be patient and wait. Otherwise, the experience could be painful.
One Christian was severely beaten and robbed when instead of waiting for a bus at about ten o’clock in the evening, he walked a short distance in semidarkness. There were other people on the street, but three thugs had set a trap for the unwary. One signaled to the others when a likely victim was on the way up the street. Without saying a word, they assaulted the victim and then robbed him. It was over so fast that even a neighbor had no time to intervene. The victim later admitted: “The next time I will wait for the bus.”
The Artful Dodger, a young pickpocket in Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, was a relatively benign prototype of the modern street delinquent. Unlike the Artful Dodger, today’s thieves and muggers, regardless of age, are likely to carry a gun or a knife, and they will use it. Disoriented tourists, visitors, and casual browsers in a bustling city are easy targets for such unscrupulous felons. They will steal whatever is available faster than you can blink an eye! What may set a thief’s pulse racing? A gold chain or other expensive jewelry worn openly. Or a camera hanging from the neck of a tourist. It is tantamount to wearing a sign that says, “Come and get me!” Thus, discretion is needed. Conceal any jewelry, and carry the camera in a less obvious manner, perhaps hidden in a shopping bag. This is practical wisdom.
Being alert is another way to cope with crime. The Bible states: “As regards anyone wise, his eyes are in his head; but the stupid one is walking on in sheer darkness.” (Ecclesiastes 2:14) Applying this warning to the problem of crime will lead one to take note of people loitering suspiciously with no apparent purpose. Watch out for thieves who may come up behind you and snatch your bag as you walk down the sidewalk. Since some ride bikes and snatch other people’s property as they hurtle by, never walk right along the edge of the sidewalk, especially if you are carrying any kind of briefcase or handbag. Avoid subway cars that are almost empty. You are safer with a mass of people in a place where there is plenty of light. Thieves do not want to be observed and identified.
Burglary is another common crime that could often be avoided if people were more crime conscious. The Bible rightly used the comparison: “Through the windows they go in like the thief.” (Joel 2:9) Practical wisdom dictates that you not leave doors or windows unlocked. It is always true that prevention is far better than a cure. Extra expense to protect your home is really an insurance against theft and bodily harm.
What if You Are Mugged?
Yes, what if, in spite of all precautions, you are stopped by a mugger? Try not to panic or make any hasty movements. Remember that the thief may also be nervous and may misinterpret your actions. Try to talk and reason with the person if he or she allows it. (Yes, your assailant may well be a female.) Sometimes muggers have been softened by knowing they are attacking a sincere and genuine Christian. Regardless of the reaction, do not try to resist if it is only your money or possessions they want. Hand over whatever is being demanded. The Bible teaches that a person’s life is worth more than anything he may possess.—Compare Mark 8:36.
Without making it look like close scrutiny, try to note any distinctive characteristics the mugger may have, either in clothing or in physical appearance. What kind of accent does he have? All these details may be useful when you report the crime to the police, since most criminals are regulars with their individual modus operandi and can thus be more easily identified.
What about carrying a weapon for self-defense? Certainly it would not be wise for a Christian to carry weapons. If a thug thought you were reaching for a weapon, he would not think twice about hurting or killing you. Furthermore, how can you follow the Bible principle to “be peaceable with all men” if you are armed for violent counterattack?—Romans 12:18.
Regardless of the precautions you might take, there is no guarantee that you will not some day be a victim. In cities rife with crime, you only need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not too long ago in New York, a lawyer left his office to buy a cup of coffee. As he entered the store, some youths drove by and shot up the place. The lawyer was killed by a bullet in the head. Because of “time and unforeseen occurrence,” he lost his life. What a tragedy! Is there any hope of a permanent solution to the present crime avalanche that is sweeping the world?—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
When Crime Will Cease
Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus foretold that a generation would come that would see more frightening events than any previous generation. With television and instant communication, millions, no, thousands of millions, witness on their local news channels atrocities as they are actually being committed. The world has become a village, and world news is immediately local news. As a consequence, reality strikes home daily, and as Jesus prophesied, many people “become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:26.
Jesus foresaw the events that have taken place since 1914, events that would be a prelude to Armageddon, with which “the conclusion of the system of things” terminates. (Matthew 24:3-14) But he also said: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31) That means that God’s righteous rulership will soon dramatically affect the earth.—Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:1-4.
Under that rule, only the meek, the peaceable, and those who are obedient to God will share the earth’s Paradise conditions. What will happen to the criminals and the evildoers? “Like grass they will speedily wither, and like green new grass they will fade away. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” Under that righteous heavenly government, there will be neither chaos nor crime.—Psalm 37:2, 9.
If you would like to know more about this Bible-based hope of a peaceable and lasting world government, contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood or at their local Kingdom Hall. They will gladly help you to understand the Bible, free of charge.
[Blurb on page 6]
“Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth”
[Pictures on page 7]
Charles Dickens’ pickpocket, the Artful Dodger, was a novice compared to modern muggers
Graphic Works of GEORGE CRUIKSHANK, by Richard A. Vogler, Dover Publications, Inc.