Thursday, September 02, 2010

Vicious Cycles

Law enforcement is stymied these days. I can only speak for my local area, Kootenai County, Idaho. Currently, Sheriff Rocky Watson is suing the County for additional funding to support an ever growing crime rate. Fines that accrue from arrests, both criminal and traffic, go to the state, not the county that collects them. This gives responsibility without the funding to go with it. Sounds like government, doesn't it?

Several factors are creating this logjam. First and most obviously, we are in a deep recession, perhaps even a depression. The idea that the fed fears a double dip is ludicrous. There was never a recovery from the first one. Just an artificial period whereby the federal government threw billions of dollars into the economy. They called it "Stimulus." It worked. It artificially stimulated the economy for a while, then the money was all used up and employment was still high.

Here and now, in the second phase of financial breakdown, we find ourselves fighting increasing crime brought on by people being broke. Many people are shop lifting, burglarizing homes and businesses and then there are the hard drug users that can't keep up financially with their addictions. Sheriff Watson is faced with increasing need for enforcement, while his budget is being reduced. There are only two untouchables in government funding. Law enforcement and fire protection. Everything after that is luxury, with the possible exception of education. The problem with education is once a two or three year reduction in educational productivity happens, those students going through the pipeline at that time will never get the missed wisdom back.

For starters, it is time for the state of Idaho to return the bulk of fines to the counties earmarked specifically for law enforcement and jail maintenance. This will take legislation that should have been presented many years ago. It is understandable to an extent that direct retention of fines tend to mirror the legendary stereotypical sheriffs in the deep South with their speed traps and other revenue producing scams.

These can be regulated by one, not returning all of the monies, and two, by carefully watching cause and effect. The other proactive thing the state legislators could do is to modify misdemeanor penalties that do not need incarceration. Arrests for driving without a valid drivers licence is not a violent crime and the perpetrators need not be separated from the general populous. Other such crimes are; arrests for small portions of Marijuana and or the paraphernalia that goes with it. Suspending drivers licences for those driving without a licence perpetuates the crime, since in our rural area, if you want to work and still have the opportunity to do so, you have to drive. Closer enforcement at the source of drunk driving starts at the bar that is over serving their obviously drunk clientele. Start fining bartenders and bar owners. People that drink at home don't get caught driving under the influence, nor do they go out and kill other, innocent motorists.

We need to tie serving the public to those at the fringes of society that most need help staying out of trouble. Our judges are not accomplishing that. Perhaps because of unfunded mandates from the legislature, but never the less, Idaho public records show a continuous list of 180 day sentences for failure to purchase a drivers license. The term of imprisonment for that is overkill and cruel and unusual punishment.

There are men that beat their wives that don't get six months.This whole scenario needs to be revisited, and soon. I don't believe we are coming out of this recession any time soon and when we do, inflation from the money thrown at the economy will be rampant, causing another downturn. This next decade is not looking good and we will have to either fund law enforcement or barricade ourselves in our homes, triple locked much like New York City.

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