But what are the costs of not enforcing the criminal law? We can talk about the direct monetary costs to victims. Some researchers even assign dollar values to the deaths and injuries caused by violent crime. But there is more. The cost of crime goes beyond the direct victims. Crime is a major factor in the decay of neighborhoods and even whole cities. Alex Kellogg has this article in Saturday's WSJ:
DETROIT--This shrinking city needs to hang on to people like Johnette Barham: taxpaying, middle-class professionals who invest in local real estate, work and play downtown, and make their home here.
Ms. Barham just left. And she's not coming back.
In seven years as a homeowner in Detroit, she endured more than 10 burglaries and break-ins at her house and a nearby rental property she owned. Still, she defied friends' pleas to leave as she fortified her home with locks, bars, alarms and a dog.
The article is titled "Black Flight Hits Detroit," but the underlying issue transcends race. Crime drives the responsible, productive people out of a neighborhood and leaves behind two kinds of people -- criminals and those who can't leave.
Then, a week before Christmas, someone torched the house and destroyed almost everything she owned.
Let us keep this in mind when someone claims it is "smart on crime" to grant short sentences or even probation to the "nonviolent offenders" who drove Ms. Barham out of Detroit. Let us particularly keep that in mind when the same politicians who want leniency for the criminals bemoan the urban decay that they have done so much to cause.