Crime, Cops, Guns and Trust

Over on LA Voice Mack made a post titled “Crime’s Down, but Don’t Get Too Comfy” which scratches the surface of something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Mack writes:

“If anyone had doubts about Chief William Bratton’s ability to make LAPD more effective than Bernard Parks ever did, here’s the proof: Part 1 (violent) crimes are down again for the fourth year in a row.”

“But unless he gets more money for more officers, Bratton warns, he can’t hold the downward trend to an 8% drop every year.”

Let’s look at that number for a second, according to the public COMPstat numbers, violent crime is not down 8%, property crimes are down 8%. Violent crime is only down 2% as whole, but some categories, like robberies are actually up 6% from last year. Additionally prior to 2005 Child/Spousal Simple Assaults were included in aggravated assaults which skews things a bit as well. So it’s not all flowers and sunshine. Of course this isn’t a Los Angeles specific issue. According to the Attorney General’s office violent crime is actually rising in the states largest cities. Those would be cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego – the cities that actively make it hard for law abiding citizens to defend themselves (more on that in a moment). So here we have Chief Bratton saying that unless he gets more funding to hire more officers he can’t keep crime down. San Diego is facing similar problems and at a recent protest of law enforcement funding cuts officers were holding signs saying “Don’t visit San Diego. It’s not safe” and “When seconds count, we are minutes away.” Mack ends his post asking:

“Does your neighborhood feel safer than it did in 2002? Do you think more officers on patrol will make a difference?”

All very valid questions in my book, and ones that don’t really have clear answers. If my next door neighbor is mugged tomorrow my neighborhood will certain feel less safe after the fact, but is it any more safe a day prior? This brings up another very valid question a friend of mine recently asked in reference to California’s concealed weapon laws – Why are the law abiding citizens of California not afforded the same trust as those of the more than forty shall-issue states? But it’s more specific than that because in much of rural California they are. So we’re back to the major cities again, the same ones with rising violent crime rates and shortages of law enforcement.

Let me explain this a bit further – In most of the country, and in fact in a large portion of California if you live in a less than safe area or perhaps your job takes you through some more dangerous areas (such as Compton here in LA where murder rates continue to rise) law abiding citizens can, after passing a background check and taking required training courses apply for, and receive, a license to carry a concealed firearm that could potentially protect them in a time when there was no law enforcement there to do the job for them. This is the case in every state that borders California – in fact to reach another state that isn’t like this you have to cross five states to reach Illinois, or 2400 miles of ocean to reach Hawaii.

Many counties surrounding LA, such as Kern or Orange have similar policies but state law leaves the official policy in the hands of the county Sheriffs. Different Sheriffs have different policies and in Los Angeles the policy is that you have to have documented prior warning of a threat that law enforcement can’t protect you from. Basically the guy who is planning on mugging you would need to let you know, in advance and in writing, that he’s planning to do so. Doesn’t sound likely does it. Let’s go back to those COMPstat numbers – how many victims of this years 26,469 violent crimes here in LA had documented warning that those crimes were going to take place?

There are less than 400 of these permits issued in Los Angeles county due to this policy, meanwhile neighboring counties have issued thousands. There are more people in LA, and more crime in LA. Why are those of us who who live in Los Angeles not given the same trust by our elected officials as people who live one county over?

The fact of the matter is that when law abiding citizens are trusted, and given the means to defend themselves crime goes down. And taking that means away from them does not make things any better. Perhaps the problem in LA and other major cities in California isn’t that there aren’t enough officers on the streets to protect the citizens, but that the citizens aren’t allowed to protect themselves.

11 thoughts on “Crime, Cops, Guns and Trust”

  1. If strict gun controls make life safer, why is Washington DC under a “police emergency” for its murder rate? Why does Philadelphia experience seven times the amount of gun crime as the rest of PA? Why does the UK keep winning the title of “highest violent crime per capita” developed (?) nation?

    The well-documented, peer reviewed data of researchers like John Lott and Gary Kleck tell the tale.

    Gun control laws affect only those who care about the law. Many criminals, most in some places, already have committed a crime by carrying a firearm, due to their prior records. This additional crime does not deter them from getting weapons. Disarming citizens who respect the law makes the criminal’s environment safer, and more violence (not just gun violence) and crime is the result.

    LA’s Chief Bratton admitted to the City Council not long ago, as reported in the LA Times, that most gun crime in the city is committed with unregistered firearms (that is, if the police can chase down the criminal). This means guns are coming from outside the state.

    Before you jump to the conclusion that tougher laws in AZ would stop this, consider that in the UK guns are freely available to any criminal and gun crime is increasing. The UK is an ISLAND, and the guns are coming from Europe. Universally, European gun controls are very strict, more so than most places in the US, about on par with DC. The controls are ineffective in keeping criminals from weapons, particularly handguns.

    Look at another side of written law’s failure-illegal drugs. The flow keeps coming despite huge efforts. You can expect the same for laws banning guns. Only criminals will be armed. The NRA says that, so some will say it can’t possibly be true, they lie. Think about the drug trade and the billions of dollars, thousands of people working to stop it. They can’t, and neither will guns disappear because a law goes on the books.

    Can you trust the guy (or lady) next door to possess a gun? Anti-gun groups would prefer you didn’t. The fact is, proven over and over again, is that the people who do seek carry licenses in “shall issue” states are less likely to be involved in any breach of law, from traffic tickets on up. These people tend to be more stable and law-abiding than the average. Look at the information, don’t emote about it.

    Lastly, there are some people who should not try to carry, and that is not a call against them, in my book. Better you make that decision than carry and not practice, think hard about what you do or handle a firearm negligently. That some people do carry, practice and are skilled benefits everybody when the criminals can’t be sure who is armed and who isn’t.

    Most criminals do want to continue plying their trade and see the next sunrise. They look for soft targets. They can’t evaluate easily who might be carrying or not in a “shall issue” state. In Los Angeles County, they can pretty well bet you, and I mean you, are unarmed. Most everybody in LA, on that basis, is a soft target.

    Does that make you feel better? Would you rather your neighbor carry so it is less likely a criminal might select you? Will you accept the fact that criminals do not care about laws or Sarah Brady, who has enough money to pay for all the security she could want (ditto for Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Richard Bloomberg…). Do you have that kind of money? Will you just hide from criminals when the sun goes down? Maybe that option is the best for you personally, and if so, go for it. I would like the freedom to take another path.

    I don’t have money for unlimited security as Senator Feinstein does. She is a millionairess, and a US Senator. I am well down the food chain from there but I value my life, my kid’s lives. I amy be worthless to our Senator, but not to some others. Self-defense is a human right. For that right to be effective, one has to have effective means, as one chooses, to enforce that right.

    I would like CA to change to a “shall issue” state. I have already been stalked once in this life and I can tell you the ability of police to be there before or during a crime/confrontation is minimal compared to the risks you run of being hurt.

    It is not the fault of the police agencies, either. They are not charged with protecting “you”, but the “general public”. They cannot be everywhere all the time, and so they are usually reacting to events, not anticipating them. More officers on the street may reduce “response time” but the term in itself means they just will get to the scene quicker when or if summoned.

    No amount of additional funding will change this situation with the police. You would have to have a policeman with you all the time. Rosie O’Donnell can pay for someone with a gun to take her kids to school, stay at her house, etc. Can you? Then why should you not be able to fully defend yourself if need be? Rosie hires it out. You and I will have to do for ourselves.

    If you are dead, you can’t summon the police. “Minority Report” was a movie, and even then, the system went wrong. Think about it carefully.

  2. Mr. Bonner is a respected columnist and Vegan. He does not hunt. Therefore, his views have nothing to do with the issue of the taking of game animals.

    His views are well founded on the premise a having permitted responsibility for a responsible and open society. Note a key issue is the ELECTED sheriff’s policies. Also note a vague (OK, really vague) reference to the 14th Amendment.

  3. Sean,

    Very well written article.

    This morning as I sipped on my first cup of coffee, I threw my newspapers on the floor and started scanning the headlines online. Yet another shooting story, in Wilmington, with one dead and another wounded followed Chief Bratton’s claim of decreased crime.

    Here’s my example of how safe I feel in Los Angeles at night; my son Nathan called before I left work at eight tonight, asking for a burrito from El Tepeyac’s, in East Los Angeles. Not having the needed cash on hand, I used the ATM machine at my work site, and had to pay a four-dollar fee to withdraw forty dollars. The nearest Wells Fargo is located at Whittier and Indiana, and this is not a very safe looking part of town, especially at night.

    As per drugs, we are winning the war on drugs like were winning the war in Iraq.

  4. I’m sorry, but comparing crime rates between urban areas and rural areas is just plain stupid. This is roughly akin to claiming that watching professional wrestling makes you stronger because men who watch professional wrestling are stronger on average than women who don’t.

    As for John Lott, his research has been widely criticized for methodological faults if not outright fraud. Even if his research is correct, his deceptive means of defending himself make him suspect. I’m unfamiliar with Gary Kleck, so I can’t comment on him.

  5. When I used to live in a state with more, errr, liberal gun control laws, I was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and typically did so. It never once left my holster, but it was reassuring to know that I was capable of using the best means to defend myself and whoever I was with.

    I think of having a firearm just like having a fire extinguisher – you hope to never have to use it, but in the unlikely event you do, its a damn good thing to have.

  6. As so-called “crime rates” decrease, but real crime continues to increase and even become more sinister, more and more people carry a concealed weapon even though it violates the law. One might imagine they’d rather take their chances with the courts after being arrested for having (or perhaps using) the weapon as opposed to being the unprotected subject of a violent criminal act.

    These gun laws are becoming more and more like speed limits – yes, there is a penalty for breaking those laws (sometimes a very severe penalty), but so many people do it, and that number is growing… with enough people taking the situation into their own hands (literally) the gun restriction laws slide further and further into irrelevance.

    Hey – I’d rather face the law for using a concealed weapon in the act of defending myself from a terrible crime than being yet another “statistic” in the evening news. Would I be able to tell if the crime was going to be violent enough for me to use a gun to defend myself??? Oh yeah… funny how our parasympathetic nervous system can alert us.

    Maybe Sean is right. I’m not a “gun guy”. However, if nobody really knew who was carrying, those random street crimes would be a far less attractive thing to criminals.

  7. That is a very solid point ken, it’s all about perception. With the current laws it’s a safe bet for criminals that average citizens are not carrying guns so they are safe targets. Even if some of those people are carrying in violation of the law to protect themselves, the perception is that people are unarmed. If the policy was changed and it became possible for average citizens to carry a weapon then the perception would change and average people wouldn’t be as attractive targets, even if they weren’t carrying – because the criminals wouldn’t know who was and who wasn’t.

  8. I’m sure this must’ve been done somewhere, but what about comparing crime rates between a California city and it’s closest possible counterpart in Texas or some other state with more liberal gun laws. Maybe LA vs. Houston? Some of the articles you link in some of your other posts only show at the state level. Maybe that would give more fodder to get the laws changed?

  9. Sean,
    Excellent, accurate and well written. Great job!

    LA Law Enforcement Officials keep saying, “don’t be afraid to come forward. Take back your streets and neighborhoods. Be good witnesses”.

    Honest, law abiding LA residents cannot take their streets back as Bratton keeps harping because they live in constant fear that the neighboring criminals will kill them or their family members if they come forward to testify against the gang members and other thugs. This is genuine and justifiable fear for your safety if I ever heard of any but try telling that to Bratton or Baca on your “Good Cause Statement” on your CCW application.

    If the LA County residents are to take their streets and neighborhoods back, Law Enforcement needs to step up and empower them. Provide them the means to protect themselves and their family members. Instead of giving the people crime stats, pep talks and more lip service, the Chief Law Enforcement Officers should start approving their CCW applications.

  10. Sean: That’s an interesting point. I’ve had this conversation with friends in Texas and Florida who have concealed carry permits. They believe it does deter crime in some situations because you don’t know who is packing. If you’re trying to rob a fast food place or a gas station, and you suddenly hear several handguns cocking behind you, you’re gonna rethink it.

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