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Crime and What Works

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The parents of Hadiya Pendleton, murdered at the age of 15, were present as President Obama delivered his State of Union speech last night.  Would Hadiya's tragic murder have been prevented by any of the measures Mr. Obama proposed?  Probably not.

Would a ban on assault weapons have prevented this crime?  No, the killer probably used a revolver.  Would background checks have helped?  Probably not, despite what the expert interviewed in the preceding link says.  Extending background checks to gun shows or even to private sales by law-abiding individuals won't stop criminals from getting them through black-market sales or just stealing them.  (I am not against background checks.  I just don't think they will have a large effect on crime rates.)

So what does work?  Mostly measures that are opposed by the same people calling for these ineffective measures.  First, locking criminals up works.  Jason Meisner of the ChiTrib reports:

The reputed gang member accused of gunning down 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton last month was on the street even though he had been arrested three times in connection with break-ins and trespassing while on probation for a weapons conviction in recent months, the Tribune has learned.

In two of those arrests, including one just 2 1/2 months ago, Cook County probation officials failed to notify prosecutors or the judge that Michael Ward had been arrested on the new misdemeanor charges and allegedly violated his probation.

The head of the county's probation department acknowledged Monday that his office fell short in its responsibilities and vowed to find out what went wrong.

If they hadn't "fallen short" in locking up this criminal, Hadiya would be alive.

Another measure that works is the proactive policing of the kind New York City uses over the vehement opposition of the Politically Correct.  Holman Jenkins has this column in the WSJ:

Such has been the function of the stop-and-frisk activities of the New York Police Department, originally under its famed Street Crimes Unit, which developed an uncanny expertise at identifying those likely to be carrying illegal weapons. The value of stop-and-frisk wasn't just the arrests made and guns seized, but the incentive to New York's criminal population to leave its guns at home.

Liberals criticize stop-and-frisk because those stopped and frisked and sent to jail under New York's draconian gun enforcement are disproportionately black and Hispanic. Never mind that those who commit murders and those who are victims of murders are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

The thing to notice here is that stop-and-frisk can liberate us from the prevailing political unrealism of the gun-control debate.

Jurisdictions can be free to choose their own gun laws (as they will anyway). Mayor Emanuel can dispense with his hopeless, escapist insistence that other jurisdictions, where murders aren't frequent, must solve Chicago's murder problem. In a densely packed metropolis like New York or Chicago, where voters wish everyone to be unarmed, illegal gun users can be kept in reasonable check by aggressive enforcement. That is, if politicians are willing: The alleged murderer of 15-year-old Chicago resident Hadiya Pendleton, whose killing has been adopted as a symbol by the Obama administration, turns out to have been arrested three times recently while on probation on a weapons charge.

Not without controversy, New York City locks up people who violate its gun laws and throws away the key. Is Chicago prepared to do the same?

Finally, we should not forget the deterrent effect of a death penalty law that is actually enforced.  Despite what you may have read about a report that was partially funded by the government but actually represents only the personal opinion of its authors, the preponderance of evidence still supports the proposition that an enforced death penalty deters some murders and saves innocent lives, as we have noted previously on this blog.

Is the murder of Hadiya Pendleton one of the murders that could have been deterred by mending rather than ending Illinois' death penalty?  We will never know.  But whether it is Hadiya or someone else, innocent people are dead who could be alive.

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Progressives and apologists have tried to emasculate the traditional work of probation and parole authorities-portraying a high recidivist rate as a failure of a "system" that lacks appropriate services for its charges.

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