By John F. Di Leo -
On February 26, after some kind of altercation between a young stranger and a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, the stranger was shot and killed. Every American with a television, radio, or computer now knows the names of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
On April 11, while sleeping in their home on Chicago’s South Calumet Avenue, Tonisha Allen and her one-year-old daughter Jaliyah were shot – in bed – by bullets that came through the wall from outside. They weren’t outside, up to no good in the middle of the night; they can’t be accused of having foolishly put themselves in danger.
We don’t yet know the details of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Whether George Zimmerman was guilty of over-zealousness in watching the young stranger… whether young Martin started the altercation by attacking Zimmerman, making Zimmerman’s self-defense both understandable and justifiable… whether the prosecutor is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct in bypassing the grand jury process to issue an indictment for second-degree murder. We don’t know; hopefully the truth in all these matters will be discovered when Zimmerman’s case comes to trial.
There are many possibilities. In a case like this, where color has played such a role in the public square, the truth may actually include several shades of grey.
But lost in this media circus has been the reason for George Zimmerman’s presence on the streets of his gated community, armed, on February 26. And that reason merits much more contemplation than it has received, as Al Sharpton and similar rabble-rousers have hijacked the story for their own purposes.
A Gated Community
In the first place, what is a “gated community?” Where I live in suburban Chicagoland, I think of gated communities as sculpted neighborhoods of mansions and BMWs, with winding streets and landscapers ever at work, a part of a world completely removed from my own. Entry is limited to those who enter at a guard post, after receiving clearance from a resident within. How safe and quiet; no door-to-door salesmen, no burglars, no joy-riders here!
Most of the readers who have encountered the term have assumed that the Zimmerman-Martin event occurred in such a community. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is an average community – middle class, not wealthy – with normal townhouses and condos. Not bad, not poor, but a far cry from the opulence usually associated with the term “gated community.”
So we should ponder why a builder would spend the money and acreage to gate it. Might a crime problem in the surrounding area be behind the desire? News sources have reported that police were called to this particular community four hundred times between January 1, 2011 and February 26, 2012. The majority were probably the usual calls for excessively noisy parties and things like that, though there some burglaries and other thefts, and at least one shooting, in that time period. They had had a neighborhood watch in place for several years, in their effort to protect their neighborhood from the much more rampant crime that infests so much of the country nowadays. The neighborhood watch is credited with having helped in that effort.
Back in Chicago, the 11900 block of South Calumet Avenue has no such gates or fences. The police are called to little Jaliyah Allen’s neighborhood every day, often multiple times per day, and usually for much worse crimes than a noisy party. Chicago is one of the murder capitals of the world, with an average north of one murder a day.
The same day as the Zimmerman-Martin incident in Florida, for example, a drive-by shooting in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood left one dead and two wounded. The collateral damage to a community goes beyond those directly involved; a collision between an SUV and an emergency vehicle on its way to that scene left three adults and four children injured. So the one person firing his gun from a speeding car left ten injuries in his wake. Do you want to move into that neighborhood now?
The big picture, so often avoided…
Rampant crime is destroying our nation. Our cities look and feel like war zones as a result. Businesses flee – why would any investor want to risk his life going to his worksite every day? Homeowners flee – why would buy property in a place where your life is at risk just sleeping in your bed, not to mention shopping, driving, or walking on your sidewalk?
The process becomes a downward spiral. The only people to remain are those who cannot afford to leave – or think they can’t, anyway – so the cities must spend ever more on a police presence, with an ever decreasing taxing universe to pay for it. Sales taxes plummet as stores must flee to the suburbs, the high costs of security guards, cameras, and shoplifting making it impossible to remain. If property taxes skyrocket, such cash-poor residents will go into delinquency… so the city’s only option becomes to raise the property taxes on the good neighborhoods to pay for the bad. Guess what that’ll do.
Manufacturing and other commerce flee for the same reason, robbing the city of still more revenue, robbing the residents of livelihood, until there’s nothing left but the nearly permanent underclass of America’s welfare state – the people who simply cannot escape it, because it is all they’ve ever known, and their “community” has taught them to fear any change from the dependency of the government housing, government schools, and government food support on which they have become addicted.
The criminal justice system is flooded – with prosecutions, with trials, with holding cells and bail bonds and penitentiaries. We catch and release, catch and prosecute and release, catch and prosecute and convict and release, catch and prosecute and convict and sentence and release….
Our prisons are so full that the system has become hard-coded to release even the guilty as quickly as possible because there simply isn’t room for them. Sane people know that money spent on a prison cell is not only cheaper in the long run but in the short run as well, as the one place where a criminal cannot knock over a convenience store, cannot rape a girl jogging in the park, cannot burglarize a house or murder a homeowner when discovered, is when the criminal is in jail already.
If we just made convictions easier and jail more certain, then even without counting the benefits of the deterrent effect, the cost of criminal justice would plummet. Think of the resources spent on arresting the same criminal dozens of times, prosecuting the same criminal dozens of times, jailing and freeing, jailing and freeing. The surest way to end recidivism is by keeping the proven criminal locked up.
Of course it isn’t quite that simple in practice, and we must be certain of those we convict and jail. But it is an unavoidably complicated process, made more so by the politicization of genuine efforts at crime control by political interests with other than America’s well-being in mind.
The enemy within.
The nation is under assault, but not just by the obvious criminals themselves.
There are the race hustlers – who pounced on the Zimmerman-Martin event with the claim that the killing of a black teenager by a mixed-race neighborhood watch volunteer was proof of institutional racism by a racist country. The socialists – who pounce on every reasonable effort to free the poor from bad neighborhoods through a rollback of the destructive welfare state, as they claim that efforts at welfare reform and gang control are just racist attempts to keep “the community” down, when in fact the exact opposite is the case. The Democratic Party – an ever more criminal enterprise that unconstitutionally enslaves its voting blocks to keep themselves in public office, no matter how many millions are impoverished and endangered as a result.
The truth of the Zimmerman-Martin case – hopefully – will be discovered at trial. We can all hope that real justice is done.
But we must also work to stop the race hustlers, socialists, and other member groups of the Democratic Party umbrella from success in their larger goals. They are trying to use this case to facilitate their efforts to unconstitutionally restrict gun rights, so that the poorest and weakest are even more vulnerable to assault. They are trying to use this case to turn the public against the well-intentioned neighborhood watch groups that have been successfully resisting these criminal incursions into their communities. The left is trying their level best to poison the minds of independent voters, hopefully in time for November, into thinking that gun owners, neighborhood defenders, and other champions of a civil society are some crowd of bigots, on the wrong side of the class war that the left keeps desperately trying to gin up.
The focus should not be on one isolated case in a courtroom in Florida.
We should instead be focusing on innocent little Jaliyah Allen and the thousands like her, killed or wounded every year, all across the nation, by the rampant crime that is enabled by the tactics and philosophy of the modern left. These victims are usually nameless and faceless in our news coverage, as we in the cities have grown immune to the horrifying affects of such news stories. “Another three shot dead, seven hurt, on South and West sides” appears in the headlines, and we no longer bat an eye. We barely notice; we take it in stride, as if mind-numbed to the idea that it is unavoidable in a big city. It Is Not!
We should be concentrating on what can be done so that neighborhood watch programs thrive… so that neighborhoods can be safer for everyone, residents and visitors alike, black and white, rich and poor. Resist the effort to racialize the debate; remembering that the majority of victims of violent crime in America are in minority groups, simply because of where they live. Those of us who stand up for safe streets and stiff penalties for the convicted are the ones standing up for the victims; those who resist such calls are enabling the criminals, condemning the vulnerable poor to a life of fear, a life without opportunities, a life in jeopardy.
Thousands are killed, thousands more are wounded. It’s long past time to declare war on the gangs that terrorize our streets, the burglars who invade our homes and mug our elderly, the rapists and killers who rob innocent citizens of their rights to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.
A better system will not be flawless. We will have occasional – hopefully rare – mistakes in which someone is wrongfully accused, even wrongfully injured or killed in a pursuit. But the pendulum swung so far in the wrong direction in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a correction is simply imperative.
Just because the Democratic Party is happy with millions being impoverished and endangered in the service of their prejudices doesn’t mean that the rest of us should tolerate it any more.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the byline and IR URL are included.
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