By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

If we haven’t had enough forehead slapping, eye-rolling, what the heck moments in the past year, here’s another: paying people not to shoot other people. Saying “Don’t shoot, here take my money” sounds more like a robbery than a social program, but some social engineers think it will save lives. In San Francisco, an organization called the Dream Keepers Initiative is offering to pay high-risk individuals $300.00 per month not to shoot. If they work with their life coach and jump through some more hoops, they can get an additional $200.00 a month.

In case you’ve never heard of the Dream Keepers Initiative, you can quickly find them mentioned in news reports regarding the defunding of the San Francisco Police Department. Mayor London Breed made headlines in 2020 by pledging to take 120 million dollars from the SFPD budget and “reallocate” the funds to Black communities.

A similar program was deemed to have some success in Richmond, California where homicides by firearms decreased by 55% and other shootings reduced by 43% since the program began in 2010. Richmond’s program actually involved police partnerships. It also showed violence reduction during a time when the murder rate was declining nationwide for half of that decade.

An inherent problem of the cash reward program is the set of assumptions on which it is based. One is that the program in Richmond actually worked. The causes of crime are always in dispute, especially when expected crime doesn’t happen because everyone wants to take credit for prevented crime. Things that don’t happen are hard to measure, and an essential truth necessary to interpret statistics is that just because one thing happened and another thing happened after that, doesn’t mean the first thing caused the second thing. In research, only when a researcher can isolate the one thing being studied from all other influences can they establish direct causation. This always requires additional assumptions that nothing else happened that was not noted or measured.

That’s a complicated way of saying “it ain’t necessarily so”. Another assumption being made by the San Francisco program is that however they conduct their program will yield good results even though there are many differences in management, budget, population, and measurement of the program. You can bet that as long as the money is rolling in (sucked from the police budget), the reports will always claim wonderful success.

Another question unsolved by professional criminologists is whether violent crime is rational. In other words, do offenders made a “pro” and “con” list to determine if their lawbreaking is worth the risk. Does a young person deemed at risk of murder determine that a monthly allowance and some coaching is better than expressing their rage through violence? Maybe.

But what about the inherent unfairness. The well-behaved, non-criminal, self-controlled population get nothing. Leftist thinking is always classist thinking. If somebody has something, they don’t deserve it. If a population has nothing they deserve to get some of what someone else has. Within the limits of charity and helping, Americans are very tolerant and supportive of programs that help build opportunity. This program seems to reward at-risk behavior rather than merely prevent undesirable behavior.

The program reminds me vaguely of President Obama’s Cash for Clunkers program. In order to manipulate the market and boost car sales, $3 billion went to buy people’s old cars with the hopes that they’d buy a new one and help the carmakers. Instead, new car sales actually slumped as the clunker owners bought cheap used cars with their cash. New car makers suffered a downturn of $3 billion in sales. The lesson, never learned by politicians, is that throwing money at a problem to change human behavior seldom works the way we hope.

One might hope that the promised millions siphoned from police budgets would at least be used for the real common denominators of crime which is fatherlessness and family instability. But those efforts might be politically incorrect because it implies that single mothers are less than and that fathers make a difference all of which entangles the “gender doesn’t matter and probably doesn’t even exist” crowd up in knots. Let’s keep blaming society, genetics, economics, and racism – anything but personal responsibility – and keep the easy money flowing