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Week of: February 18, 2001

Give Police the Credit They Deserve

by F.R. Duplantier

"Law-abiding blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities have been the major beneficiaries of more proactive police and court proceedings."

"The sharp decline in crime in America since 1980 has benefitted almost everyone by improving personal safety in homes, at schools, and on sidewalks, buses, and subways," reports Gary Becker of the Hoover Institution. "But the inner-city poor, living in neighborhoods that have typically suffered from high rates of violent crime, have by far been helped the most."

In a recent issue of Hoover Digest, published quarterly by the Hoover Institution, Becker elaborates on the manifold benefits of crime reduction. "The much-improved quality of life in inner cities is the driving force behind the housing boom in downtowns across the country," he observes. "Private houses and apartment buildings in black- and other minority- inhabited neighborhoods are being renovated and better maintained because their market worth has risen greatly, largely in response to the improved safety. Middle-class families of all colors and ethnicities are moving to these neighborhoods that are close to jobs and still have cheaper housing than other areas."

According to Becker, "Crime fell in the United States even as it rose sharply in Europe during the past 20 years. This is partly because America has enjoyed a long period of prosperity with low unemployment," he explains. "However, another key difference is the American criminal justice system's greatly increased rate of apprehension, conviction, and imprisonment of persons guilty of committing robberies, assaults, and other felonies. Most European nations, by contrast, continued to reduce their imprisonment rates during this period."

Becker concludes that "life in inner-city neighborhoods is much better than in the past, when police paid little attention to crimes committed against blacks. In fact," he claims, "increased police enforcement particularly benefits minorities because the vast majority of violent and property crimes are committed against persons of the same race and ethnicity. Criminals seldom travel far to find homes to burglarize," Becker comments, "and violent crimes tend to be committed against friends and family members."

I've had one or two unpleasant encounters with police officers over the course of my 45 years, but I've also had several dozen satisfactory engagements too. On each of the latter occasions, I was impressed by the speed of their response, the thoroughness of their procedure, and the professionalism of their manner. I've also gotten to know a few policemen personally and been awestruck by their nonchalant accounts of everyday heroism. A former deputy chief of police in New Orleans and his wife, who saw service herself in the city's street crimes unit, are dear friends (and godparents to my third-eldest daughter). Two kinder, wiser people I've never known. I can think of few things more base than a bad cop, and few things more noble than a good one. If America's cities, so long in decline, have begun to flourish once more, credit is due -- and should be given -- to the people most responsible for it: the police officers who have made the streets safe again. Why not stop the next one you see and thank him for it personally?


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