Sunday, February 27

We Must Take a Harder Line Against Criminals

Somewhere in the world, there is a person who stole the license plates off of my car while it was parked in the middle of Washington, DC. Also out on the loose is another person who broke into my wife’s car and ripped the stereo out of it. Yet another criminal on the loose managed to obtain and use my credit card number. Over the course of three days he charged over $1,200 in AMTRAK tickets purchased over the phone. As far as I know, the people who committed these crimes were never caught. At least I never have had the satisfaction of knowing that they have been caught. Even if they were, I am fully aware that the punishment they would have received for these crimes is nowhere near what I would sentenced them to. Most recently, a locked cabinet in my office was broken into, and $160 was stolen. My company later learned that the thief had also stolen a copy of a canceled company check from elsewhere in the office. With that he created fake company checks that were cashed to the amount of $10,000.

Crime and crime fighting always comes up around election time. Normally the issue is centered on which candidate is tougher on crime and whether their state should approve capital punishment or a ‘three-strikes’ law. However, last year the mainstream media was busy reporting how a portion of the population has been unfairly disenfranchised of their right to vote. Of course, this “disenfranchisement” was of their own making. They have ended up in this situation due to a felony crime conviction. These same individuals are also not eligible to serve on juror duty, but I have yet to see any ex-cons complaining of jury-duty disenfranchisement.

In addition to the cries of those determined to restore voting rights to convicted criminals, there are also relatives of criminals sentenced under three-strikes laws fighting to have these laws weakened in order to get their three-striker out of their prison sentence. These family members are very concerned and very involved, working with groups attempting to overturn these laws. I wonder where these family members were before, when their loved ones were out breaking laws and collecting their second and third strikes. They could have at least tried to keep their loved ones from doing things that landed them in prison in the first place.

A Felony is a crime that carries a punishment or at least a year or more of jail time. Examples of felonies include crimes such as murder, rape, burglary and arson. Murder, by my definition, is when a criminal disenfranchises another person from his life, forever. And as we all know, dead people, good and bad, cannot vote.

Not all convicted felons are created equal. Some criminals have multiple felony convictions. In some of the better/stricter states, three felony convictions, or two felony convictions and a conviction for any third crime will result in the criminal being sentenced under a mandatory sentencing law, commonly known as a “three-strikes” law. These laws have also come under attack for being unjust to criminals, ineffective in preventing crime, and expensive. However, no matter the cost, these career criminals are removed from society, unable to create more victims, except possibly victimizing those they meet while behind bars.

FACTS: the Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes Law has the slogan on their website, “Let the time fit the crime.” Their “Top 150 Unjust 3-Strikes Stories” is a great list of criminals where in many, but not all, cases the third strike was for a petty crime. Third-strike cases included:
Theft of razor blades
Theft of a package of AA batteries
Shoplifting a lock (of all things!)

We can all agree that these are truly petty crimes, but crimes nonetheless. The website was nice enough to list their first two (or more) strikes which reveals that these same criminals have convictions for residential burglary, robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon, among other crimes. There were also a number of third strikers whose third conviction was drug related and those who had no convictions for violent crimes. A point that some of them are using to appeal their long prison sentences.

So what if their final strike was not for a serious, violent crime. The idea of these mandatory sentencing laws was to put repeat offenders away for a long time. Being caught for any crime is evidence enough that these persons are a continued threat in society. In all fairness, I do not see why the first two strikes need to be for felonies. Too cruel? How about five strikes? Ten strikes? At some point repeat offenders should be put away for life. It is just not fair to the rest of us that these people are out free, taking advantage of the rest of us. One of the top 150 unjust three strikers plainly states"
  • “My crime of receiving stolen property of 30 dollars worth of womans jewerly is called a wobbler which could have been probation or county time, but instead I got a life sentence.”

See. Even with prior convictions, he still expected the system to go easy on him, simply because he was being a petty criminal.

I am in my early thirties. I have never been charged or convicted of any crime, let alone a felony. I have never been arrested. I have no strikes against me. I have never tried any illegal drugs. The one thing I am guilty of is speeding. I am not a pious person. I live a normal live just like most Americans who also have no strikes against them. Despite the lawful life that I (we) try to lead, there are no limits to the number of crimes that can be committed against me.

Groups in favor of restoring voting rights to ex-felons believe that these people have served their time in prison and paid back their ‘debt’ to society. The problem I have is that they have not paid back their ‘debt’ to me. The same goes for the victims of serious and violent crimes, or their families in the case of murder.

The license plates were stolen from my car the night before a driving vacation to South Carolina. Instead of beginning my drive at seven-thirty in the morning, I spent the next four hours with the process of reporting the crime at a police station since the police would not come to me and then to motor vehicle to obtain new plates and a registration, which I had to pay for.

My wife and I can never get those four hours back. I was also out the cost of the new plates and registration. That was slightly less expensive than repairing the damage and replacing the radio that was stolen from my wife’s car. Again four hours lost dealing with the police. One day lost to repair the car door, and another three hours to replace the radio. I was also out the cost of the radio and repairing the damage to the passenger side door, not to mention repairing the emotional damage done to my wife.

I was most ‘lucky’ when it came to the fraudulent credit card charges. The bank quickly reversed the charges, but we were without a credit card for a week until they could send us a replacement card. All of our automatic monthly payments had to be updated. The big loser in that crime was AMTRAK, who failed to notice that none of the multiple names provided in the fake charges belonged to me, the cardholder, instead blindly accepting many charges against the same credit card number. This was probably something the criminal was aware of. You would think that a company that has it’s own police force would be able to track down these criminals.

The crimes committed against my wife and I were all non-violent. The assets of my wife and I are like a bank account for criminals, occasionally tapped for their benefit. I almost would have preferred a violent crime, as it would have given me a chance to defend myself. But here in Washington, DC I cannot even do this properly due to the country’s most restrictive gun laws. And as we all know, these laws do not stop the criminals from obtaining weapons. Washington, DC is awash in illegal weapons. It is hardly a shining example of the benefits of gun control. One of the arguments of those fighting to return the vote to ex-felons is that many of the felony convictions were for non-violent crimes. Gun possession, for example, is a non-violent crime, as opposed to actually using the gun during a crime.

Many are felons due to convictions for drug possession. I take issue with stating that any drug dealer can be described as non-violent. After all, even the least violent drug dealer, has customers who commit all sorts of crimes to support their drug habits. Lets not forget that the drug industry as a whole unleashes all sorts of violence upon Americans. The theft of my license plates was a non-violent crime. Were they stolen and used to commit other crimes? I do not know, but it did concern me for a while, especially since that was the same week the DC sniper started his reign of terror. I am sure the proceeds from the fraudulent credit card purchases did not go to any noble cause.

Whatever the crime, each one degrades the standard of living for all Americans. I believe that minor non-violent crimes affect society more than violent crimes. DC Might have the reputation as the murder capital of America, but I have not witnessed any. However, I walk by cars with broken windows almost every week. These non-violent criminals, even when caught, spend little or no time behind bars, leaving lots of time to create ever more havoc upon society. Where is the deterrent to encourage these people to walk away from a life of crime? In the case of minors, where are their parents? It is their responsibility to know what their children are up to. IF the children is doing something illegal and is caught, then the system should try and help the family show the child of his ways. If the child is caught again, then the system should treat them like every other adult criminal.

It is good that we are discussing crime and voting rights. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the mere threat of losing your right to vote turns out to be an effective crime deterrent? Well that is not likely to happen, but at least children should be taught to value their right to vote. They should also be taught how hard it is to fully re-join society once you have betrayed it. And this points to where everyone should be concentrating our effort, preventing people from breaking the law in the first place.
With education, (as if the public really needs to be taught right and wrong) should come much harsher penalties for those who decide to break our laws. The “time” should never fit the crime. Prison sentences should be an overkill in relation to the crime committed. Sound unfair. Sure it’s unfair. It is very unfair. Tell your children, tell your friends, and surely, tell all those who have one and two strikes, that their next crime, no matter how petty, just might result in spending the rest of their life behind bars. After all, each one of these persons has infringed on our right to live a life free from crime. And that is the biggest crime of them all.