The rise in crime should be Republicans’ ticket to a landslide in midterms 2022. For a variety of reasons, chief among them the general awfulness of Republicans running for office, this challenging issue, which generally works for the right wing, hasn’t gotten through to them. It may also be because the primary Republican solution to crime – locking up all black men – is cruel, racist, and of course ineffective. It may also be that Republicans have a hard time calling themselves law and order when their top man — Donald Trump — is a white-collar criminal, and they complain endlessly about the FBI doing the job they do were hired. In fact, Republicans don’t even consider white-collar crime to be real — since so many of them commit these crimes.
We must put the blame where it belongs: on a very sick capitalist society with essentially no safety net for our poorest and most troubled citizens
In Brattleboro, Vermont, we face an ongoing spate of what most people consider petty theft — car break-ins, store break-ins — my bookstore has had four break-ins in the past year, and none in the previous 38 years. I have attended meetings with other merchants as well as downtown residents and employees of the many non-profit organizations that call our city home. The frustration is palpable and few solutions are offered.
The traditional solutions—arrest and jail—do not work for a number of reasons. One is a shortage of officers – our boss is trying to hire, but at the last select committee meeting I attended we were still 10 officers short – of the 27 in the budget. The police know exactly who is doing all the petty crime, but the system works against them. Even if they manage to arrest the well-known person, in less than 24 hours judges will send them out onto the street to break in again. And jail isn’t the place for people who steal to get a meal or a dose of street drugs.
Amazingly, we had a guy at our store who stole 17 books and placed them under the care of a local antiquarian book dealer who claimed to be a Stephen King fan whose books he stole. When we called the antiquarian book dealer, he felt horrible, gave us our books back and filed a police report. The guy got arrested – and a few days later, cool as a cucumber, he walked into the bookstore and stole the Groundworks donation jar – while smiling at two employees! One even chased him, but he was faster.
Clearly, catch and release doesn’t work. Street drugs create many dire problems for our society, and petty crime is one of them. We are the gateway city to the massive southern New England drug pipeline, and we desperately need a constructive way to give the many drug users the help they need. When the choice is the street or the night in jail, no one gets better. We need a drug court that takes at least some of the more problematic ones to rehab where there is at least an opportunity to become a healthier person with a home and a life.
These repeated thefts and acts of violence leave our town feeling uneasy. What is property crime but a person or persons being their own mini – Donald Trump: What you have is mine and I will take it from you. Republicans want to eliminate the thousands of tax officers rehired by the Biden administration to deal with high-profile tax criminals. They fired her because they seem to think the rich can get away with any crime.
Rick Scott, the chairman of the Republican Senate Election Committee, was fined $1.7 BILLION for Medicare fraud – the largest Medicare fraud in history. The theft of resources and the refusal of the wealthy to pay anywhere near their fair share of taxes is one of the main factors that has led to the huge inequality that plagues our country. We should and could have universal health care, a government that shelters the homeless, and free drug treatment for all who accept the need. This massive and growing wealth gap creates conditions for the type of crime Brattleboro is witnessing. No matter what we do to solve our city’s problems, if we don’t deal with how the super-rich are taking all the resources and leaving the rest of society a meager booty, we will not live in a safe community.
I fear many communities face the same problems that Brattleboro lives with. We progressives can’t pretend that crime isn’t a problem. We need to discuss this with each other, we need to put the blame where it belongs: on a very sick capitalist society that has essentially no safety net for our poorest and our most troubled citizens. Republicans aren’t even close to the Law and Order Party, and it’s high time to challenge them. If we work for a system that taxes the billionaire class at a fair rate, we could actually begin to rebuild a healthy, secure society.