Myths help perpetuate crime

Published 9:56 pm Monday, September 9, 2013

By Joseph L. Bass

Anyone who pays attention to crime reports knows violent crime continues to be a factor in the same Suffolk neighborhoods year after year.

Is the Suffolk Police Department failing in its efforts to eliminate crime in these areas? Is the Suffolk government failing?


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I don’t think so. Let me explain.

Many Suffolk citizens are uncomfortable discussing crime-ridden neighborhoods. We in Suffolk are no different from other Americans. We think such discussions label neighborhoods as “bad,” so we come up with all sorts of euphemisms to put window dressing on realities. We call such places “underserved,” “concentrations of poverty,” or “working-class neighborhoods.”

But how many of us live in neighborhoods were people don’t work? This reflects one of our major challenges. Many want to believe in myths that cannot be supported by the realities around us.

Television police programs like “Criminal Minds,” which show law enforcement officers in bulletproof vest rushing with guns drawn to save helpless victims create many of those myths. Hour after hour, television news and fictional programming focus on police successes.

How much reality is there in that?

Quoting from “Point Blank” by Gary Kleck: “Police officers rarely disrupt violent crimes or burglaries in progress; even the most professional and efficient urban police forces rarely can reach the scene of a crime soon enough to catch the criminal ‘in the act.’ More generally, the idea that modern police are so effective in controlling crime that they have rendered citizen self-protection obsolete is widely at variance with a large body of evidence that police activities have, at best, only very modest effects on crime.”

So how do we reduce crime and foster safety in our crime-ridden communities? Start by comparing crime-ridden neighborhoods with neighborhoods that experience little crime.

Square mile for square mile, there is excessive taxpayer money spent in crime-ridden neighborhoods and very little spent in neighborhoods with little crime. There are few police officers in neighborhoods with little crime.

Obviously it is not police and government spending that has reduced crime in areas with little crime. In neighborhoods with less crime there are many community-supported activities not funded by government, often through churches and civic organizations.

There is little call for more government spending; many actively-involved people want less government, not more. There are many avenues for community cooperation and little conflict among citizens. There is pride among citizens in their self-reliance and group accomplishments that make for a better place for all to live. There is a high concentration of people with concealed-carry gun permits.

Our government and police are not failing. The failure is among the myth-believers, who continue to campaign for more programs that do not work except to promote government dependency. They need to see the realities around us and promote efforts that are successful and foster self-reliance among the people.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at