Are Bad Habits Fueling the Crime Wave?

Are Bad Habits Fueling the Crime Wave?

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser sounded like the parent of a pre-schooler saying some people picked up “bad habits” during the COVID isolation. He made the statement during a closed-door public safety roundtable held in Pueblo, Colorado, a community of 120,000 suffering from the same challenges of violent crime and police staffing seen throughout the country.

The rhetoric of political responses to the uptick in lawlessness rarely includes the term “personal responsibility”. It seems that the term is reserved for mask mandates and vaccinations. In the politics of crime, the blame doesn’t focus on people choosing to kill, steal, and destroy. It’s the gun. It’s the bad cops. It’s the drugs. It’s the prison system. It’s the economy. It’s the pandemic.  Of course, when it comes to the pandemic, all the blame goes to personal responsibility on the ignorant, selfish dolts who don’t want to wear masks and get a third vaccine poke. Murder me it’s not really your fault. I catch COVID, dammit why did you do that to me?

The largest teacher’s union decries the “school to prison pipeline” perpetuated by school resource officers picking on marginalized students, and mean immigration officers making families comply with the law. A Manhattan District Attorney announced that as long as an armed robber doesn’t actually pull the trigger of the gun they are pointing at the convenience store clerk’s head, the robbery will become a misdemeanor theft. As long as a burglar targets only sheds and storage lockers, there may be no prosecution at all. Drug dealers have to be involved in additional crimes to face prosecution. DA Alvin Bragg just doesn’t like to see anyone sent to prison, bless their hearts.

A program in San Francisco will pay people identified as violence-prone as much as $500 a month to not shoot people. Even police reform advocate Al Sharpton is complaining that they are locking up toothpaste at the drugstores because of rampant theft of even low-dollar items. Journalist Tom Zytaruk has observed, “Criminal recidivists are trained to know that despite all the finger-wagging and stern admonishments enunciated by judge after judge, this forgiving criminal justice system of ours, predicated on the concept that human beings are inherently good, keeps reinforcing the message that somehow society has failed the offenders rather than the message that they themselves are personally accountable for the choices they make.” I came across Zytaruk’s comment as one of the very few results that popped up on an internet search for the words personal responsibility and crime. The concept is not creating much chatter among policy wonks and politicians’ speech writers. And Zytaruk is Canadian.

But don’t take too much personal responsibility like buying a gun or determining to protect your home or family. That would be paranoid, promote violence, and give testimony to your belief that the government can’t protect you 24/7.

During the aforementioned Colorado roundtable, Weiser also said “A lot of the concerns we talked about were young people who may have gotten some of these bad habits, may not have the same family and community connections. I also think the availability of both drugs and guns are fueling more violent crimes.” Drugs light up and force themselves into the veins and lungs. Guns leap into the hands of young people and create an irresistible vibration that causes assaults and robberies. In a discussion about doubling murder rates, increased domestic violence, and even higher fatality rates due to reckless and drugged driving, Weiser couches the topics in the category of “bad habits”.

Could it be that politicians attacking law enforcement has become a bad habit? Could it be that letting violent criminals roam the streets on no-bail release, easy probation, and lax prosecution has become a bad habit? Could it be that blaming everything but the individual has become a bad habit? Maybe Weiser is right, we have picked up a few bad habits.