Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is This the Best Use of Cop Resources?

Each year, the FBI reports on the numbers of violent and property crimes and the number of drug arrests.  This Huffington Post column describes a hardly new but still disturbing pattern:  arrests for possession of pot dwarf  arrests for violent crimes.

Violent crime, as we all know, is still on the decline.  According to the FBI, in 2011, "an estimated 1,203,564 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 3.8 percent from the 2010 estimate."  Property crime is also still dropping. There were 534,704 arrests for violent crime in 2011; over 1.6 million for property crimes.

But the number of drug arrests in 2011 eclipsed the violent crime arrests, clocking in at 663,032. Over 43 percent of those drug arrests -- over 285,100 -- were for possession of marijuana.

Interestingly, over 80 percent of all drug arrests were for possession.  Only 18.2 percent were for sale or distribution.

If these numbers leave you scratching your heads, you're not alone.  These numbers raise perplexing questions about our law enforcement priorities.  The costs of 660,000+ drug arrests are astronomical. Not all of those arrests land people in prison, but we know enough of them do that about one in five state prisoners is serving time for drugs, and over half of all federal prisoners are drug offenders.  Add mandatory minimum sentences to that equation, and it's no wonder our prisons are full to brimming over.

Is it possible we're just arresting and over-sentencing the easy pickins, the low-hanging fruit, people we're mad at instead of scared of? Is that the best use of our law enforcement resources? Is this actually making us safer?

3 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Some of the things I have heard, read and witnessed just amaze me. We have become a nation with no compassion for our own people. The goverment would rather keep throwing money in for new prisons then to try end this useless cycle. We put them in prison, we pay to keep them there and when they return to the real world, they have no clue what to do. Most are uneducated and have spent many many years in prison. Educate, Rehab....not cuffs for everyone. Everyone is different...

Ann Marie Caldera said...

My 19yr old son got arrested for stealing a cell phone from a friend he was arguing with. The cops in our city along with the DA, had a huge resentment against my son for a past case that got dismissed for lack of evidence and the cops not following their very own procedures. Long story short they carefully crossed all their "t's" and dotted all their "i's" and my son who is now 22yrs old is serving 2 sentences "non-concurrent" with a "L" attached to it, in Pelican State Prison!! He has to serve atleast 17 YEARS of that sentence before he will even be eligible for parole!!! OVER A RESENTMENT THE D.A./COPS HAD AGAINST MY SON!!!! HOW IS THIS JUSTICE!!! AND TO TOP IT OFF...I CAN'T SEEM TO GET ANY HELP ANYWHERE DUE TO WAY THE LAW IS WRITTEN!!! PEOPLE!!! THIS DOESN'T JUST PUNISH MY SON...IT PUNISHES ME...HIS SIBLINGS...MY ENTIRE FAMILY WHO LOVE HIM, AND WOULD HAVE LOVED TO SEE HIM GRADUATE FROM A COLLEGE, GET MARRIED, HAVE BABIES...ETC!!! WE HAVE A BROKEN SYSTEM THAT HAS NO RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE! OH THEY SAY THEY DO...IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE. IT'S JUST WRONG! I HAVE LOST ALL FAITH IN OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe you're right. Arrests are made for "easy pickin's". This is also true for arrests for viewing "child porn". Those in prison for this crime have not lessened demand by one iota, yet it is still claimed that it is the demand that is driving the huge number of "child porn" sites. Federal convictions carry a mandatory minimum of five years", a punishment far in excess of the crime.