August 9, 2006

Agonizing over the anti-loitering law.

Here in Madison:
The grass-roots Common Sense Coalition and a majority of Madison City Council members want to reinstate the city's controversial anti-loitering law to help stop a surge in serious crime.

But Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the move is divisive, politically motivated and distracts from an important community conversation on public safety.

The effort "is designed to pull people apart," he said.

The original law, passed in 1997 and dropped over concerns about discrimination in 2002, made it illegal to loiter for the purpose of selling drugs....

The coalition's initiative presents a political challenge for Cieslewicz and liberal council members who want to be tough on crime but face pressures from constituencies to protect civil rights.

"I don't support an anti-loitering ordinance in concept," Cieslewicz said, reserving judgment on a veto. "We don't know what they're going to propose, but I'd be a tough sell."
So, deciding whether something ought to be a crime, the key question is not how harmful the activity is, but whether arrests under that law will be racially balanced? And if someone else proposes making some harmful behavior a crime when you think the arrests under that law will not be racially balanced, they deserve to be accused of being distracting and divisive?


Gordon Freece said...

Well, yeah. If a majority of the taxpayers want racially balanced arrests for their money rather than low crime, you give the customer what he ordered.

But if they did want lower crime, the loitering law might not be crazy, actually. Just expensive. And your mileage may vary.

Gordon Freece said...

P.S. And that guy I linked may be full of crap.

jeff said...

Um, the original law "made it illegal to loiter for the purpose of selling drugs"?

What part of "selling drugs" (or for that matter possession of same), wasn't already illegal?

the Rising Jurist said...

I am curious how the original law, or enforcement thereof, was racially imbalanced. Do only minorities loiter? Or perhaps the cops hassled them alone?

Al Maviva said...

People frequently get the government they ask for, and deserve. Ask for racially balanced arrest figures, and ye shall receive. In the real world, we go to war on crime with the criminals we have, not the racially and gender-balanced, inclusive ones we wish we had. Presumably, your criminal pool in Madison "looks like America." Good for you. And good thing our puny human rules do not apply in Madison, otherwise your new "no disparate impacts" law enforcement initiative would be a complete bust. Um, so to speak.

Seven Machos said...

jeff -- The idea is probably to arrest the guy who the cops know is selling drugs (community policing and all that) but haven't caught in the act. You have to prove intent, anyway, so it's not much different in principal than any other law regarding an inchoate action.

Daryl Herbert said...

So, deciding whether something ought to be a crime, the key question is not how harmful the activity is, but whether arrests under that law will be racially balanced?

So these people were against criminalizing cross burning, right? After all, one would not expect racial balance in the arrest rate.

How about other hate crimes laws? If they thought whites were more likely to be arrested than persons of color, does that make them racists for supporting hate crimes laws?

And what's with these laws against securities fraud? Don'tcha know that has a disproportionate impact on rich white men?

Robert Burnham said...

How Madison this all is!

The mayor clearly thinks most drug dealers are minorities, but the PC Speech Controller on his tongue forbids his ever saying that. So he has to dance all around the subject and talks instead about having "important community conversations" about public safety.

I find his language highly untrustworthy. Real conversations occur between at most a handful of people talking between themselves. A "community conversation" is usually lefty code-speak for making sure the masses get the correct line from the Inner Party members.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Total digression here: Ann why did you take down the instapundit quote, "she's smarter than me". Was that at the request of the instapundit himself or what. Just curious.

KCFleming said...

From the paper: "The city, meanwhile, has seen a 76 percent rise in robberies for the first six months of this year.
The chief's proposals have also come amid chaos and violence erupting at bar time on the 100 block of King Street the past two weekends, and a double murder at a South Side apartment building last weekend."

The first and most important duty of any government is ensuring the safety of its citizens. No other duty can be fulfilled unless and until this is accomplished. Rising crime rates are evidence of a governmental failure of the rankest kind.

Enforcing expectations of reasonable behavior is a vital prerequisite to keeping a city civilized. Until street thugs and drug dealers learn to obey even the most minimal rules for decent conduct, the streets are not safe for the majority (especially for the vulnerable, supposedly a Democrat's base), and the miscreants lose a real chance to get back into society.

It is beyond the ability of PC folks to imagine that it is more effective to prevent bad behavior than to punish it after it occurs. To be sure, some goodhearted soul exchanging money with strangers in the park might actually be just giving away money, and feel so unfairly hassled that he quits loitering (in a non-criminal way), which is just so, you know, unfair. But others will start to improve their conduct simply because they know they face being rousted, or else they'll just move on.

Madison is starting to sound like New York in the 60s and 70s, which set the stage for Guiliani's takeover that reset the city on crime. Moreover, it's a racist insult to suggest that before the fact they know already more blacks will be arrested under the proposed ordinance.

"n fact, neighborhood leaders, including many minorities, testified in favor of the law."

knox said...

the effort "is designed to pull people apart," he said.

ow! stop pulling me apart!

Ann Althouse said...

$CAV3NG3R: It actually had to do with something Jonah Goldberg wrote. I used to have his quote: "Althouse is cool," which was paired with Glenn's quote. Jonah tried to make a better quote for me, but it mentioned Margaret Cho, and I just didn't want that name sitting in my masthead. After some reconfiguring, I ended up just cutting back to two. Glenn has never asked me to do anything except guest-blog for him.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

"Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the move is . . . politically motivated[.]"

Heavens bar politicians from ever doing something from a political motivation.