How should society stop crime? To me, the answer is simply to find ways to reduce the incentive for doing crime We have tried to do this by having police and prisons. In other words, punishing the perpetrators to make it too costly to commit crime. But after centuries of this effort, we are recognizing finally that this really doesn’t work. This method leads to corruption and terrorism.
New York City is embarking on making it more profitable not to commit crime than to commit crime. “New York City will spend $1 million to pilot its version of a violence prevention program that provides participants with intensive mentorship and financial incentives for staying out of trouble, according to city officials familiar with the plans.
The program, known as Advance Peace, will launch in one precinct in each borough and pair fellows — young people deemed at risk for involvement in gun crime — with formerly incarcerated mentors. In cities that follow the model, fellows get paid a stipend of roughly $1,000 a month for staying in the program, as well as bonuses for meeting agreed-upon life goals like obtaining a driver’s license or GED.” Of course, there’s a problem with this program: young people not invited into the program may become violent just to enter the program. But to me, the answer is to expand the program to include anyone who wants to join. After all, everyone won’t want to join – just the people who do not have a better way to spend their time. But getting a lot of people into the program will save money for policemen and taking care of people who get shot, so it’s worth it.
How should we stop drug crime? Remove the economic incentive for being a drug dealer. If the society decriminalizes drug use and allows doctors to distribute heroin and cocaine for free, no one is going to buy such drugs from criminals and the enter economic basis for drug crime will disappear. Will more people start using such drugs? Perhaps. But the doctors can regulate the usage and make sure that the users are not injuring themselves. Would this be an expensive plan? Yes, but we would save on have less need for police. We would also save money by not incarcerating drug users or prosecuting them.
Why do people become criminals, anyway? Part of it is the need for economic support. Another part of it may be a desire for power. We can eliminate the need to use crime for economic support by providing economic support.
Even President Biden has seen the benefits of crime prevention through economic incentives. “When President Joe Biden introduced his crime-prevention strategy to reporters in late June, he highlighted the community intervention efforts that DeVone Boggan launched in Richmond in 2010 and encouraged other cities to invest in such programs.
Boggan, former director of Richmond’s Neighborhood Safety Office, started the Advance Peace nonprofit five years ago to introduce his Peacemaker Fellowship program to other cities. The program is similar to Ceasefire and Cure Violence in that it addresses the root causes of gun violence. But it goes a step further, paying a stipend to those at the center of violence to be change agents in their communities, working on the streets to prevent conflicts from escalating to gun fire.
After incorporating the program into its crime-prevention strategy, Richmond saw a measurable decrease in shootings and murders. The City Council recommitted to the program for the current fiscal year, increasing the Neighborhood Safety Office’s budget even as it cut money from the Police Department.”
We have already seen the failure of programs like the War on Drugs. Leaving incentives to crime in place while trying to combat it with police, prosecution, and incarceration just does not work. We need to replace that strategy with decriminalization strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights.
When it’s all said and done, the top reasons for committing crimes are economic in nature. Poverty (or the need for more economic support) are the prime motivations. “Marxist criminologists argue that most political crime arises from the efforts of the state to reproduce the structures of inequality: racism, sexism, ethnic preferences as well as class advantages.” If this is true, these incentives can and should be eliminated. Corruption as a crime may not be totally motivated by economics. But celebrating and encouraging whistleblowing may be a way of discouraging such crimes.
In Mexico, we have the problem of cartels plus guns imported from the United States. We can move towards strategies that remove the incentives to have cartels. So far as the guns are concerned, that is going to be up to the U.S. But trying to remove the profit motive from gun production and sale would be a good start.