"Let them eat cake" has become "let them buy tasers." Why high-tech gadgets are doomed to lose the war on crime
COLUMBIA, 10/27/10 (Commentary) -- Tasers and the taser ban proposal up for a vote this November are more examples of a gulf between Columbia's citizens and public officials that gets wider with each new measure.
The very presence of tasers, red light cameras, downtown cameras, license plate readers, and other so-called "anti-crime" gadgetry in Columbia boggles the mind, given this community's small, college town ethos, small population, Liberal/Libertarian leanings, and frequent protestations in the name of sustainability and Peace.
Such high-tech measures are short cuts -- some of them with profit motives (e.g. red light cameras). As such, tasers and their techno-brethren let government leaders, courthouses, prosecutors, crime enablers, judges, and politicians off the hook, forcing more and more of a growing crime burden onto the backs of cops and deputies.
"Let them eat cake" has become "let them buy tasers."
Who, after all, uses these gadgets to put down crooks? Monitors red light cameras? Watches downtown surveillance systems? Uses license plate readers? Our men and women in Navy blue and deputy-brown.
Meanwhile, local officials are doing little to get at the root of our growing crime problem, like ending Columbia's ongoing residential segregation; increasing -- rather than slashing -- city support and infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods; ending practices like renting to chronic offenders; and pressuring our courts not to let hard-core felons walk the streets after posting paltry bonds, or do their jail time at home (so-called "home-detention"), wherein they harass the rest of us -- and often re-offend.
This morass of failure in the face of shootings, robberies, gang violence, and drug deals leaves me torn about how to vote. Saying No to Tasers leaves law enforcement with one less high-tech tool. At the same time, high-tech tools for law enforcement don't stop crime.
We -- you, me, and our local leaders -- have to do that. But so far, while the spirit may be willing, the nature has been woefully weak.
(Photo from UK DailyMail, 2007)