The Real Reason Americans Don’t Feel Safe
I walked into the grocery store yesterday and was kindly greeted by a security guard standing at the door. While I certainly appreciated the cheery but awkward smile, I couldn’t help thinking that there simply weren’t security officers at grocery stores back when I was a kid. But somehow the presence of armed guards throughout almost every facet of American life has become a tacit acceptance we all come to have made some time ago, but don’t ever overtly acknowledge, like the encroaching bald spot that looms over our middle-aged existence. It’s now simply a way of life. Be it School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in our schools or
Paul Blart’s roaming our malls, security guards have just become a part of modern life. But are we really that much safer for having them there?
Many would argue that we are and point to ramped up rhetoric recently, especially on right-wing media, highlighting a surge in criminal activity across the nation. But statistics would suggest that this really isn’t the case. An AH Danalytics study of 90 American cities actually showed a 12.2% drop in the murder rate for the first five months of 2023. In fact, while 2020 saw a dramatic surge in criminal activity due to the heightened tensions and financial circumstances of the pandemic, crime rates for the past ten years are significantly lower than in previous decades. Other than 2020, we have not had a single year with more than 6 homicides committed per 100,000 people, while the early1990’s never saw that number dip below 9. The same is true for property crimes which have seen a steady decline since their peak in the 1990’s. The area that has increased over that time, of course, is mass shootings, but we don’t really want to anything about that, now do we?
And when we do want to do something about it, we throw money at the back end rather than the front. It’s not dissimilar to the fatal flaw of our health care system as well. Instead of urging people towards healthier lifestyles that place an emphasis on preventative care, we allocate all of our resources to treating health issues after they’ve already become a problem, be it through drugs, surgeries, or treatments. Our security is the same thing. We put our money into solving the issues only AFTER they have become problems. In 2017 alone, this country spent $30 billion on police officers, $7 billion on corrections and $15 billion on courts. And don’t forget about those friendly security guards! Private security has become an over $5 billion industry in the United States, and generates over $100 billion worldwide. And what are we getting for our money? Well, to hear FOX News tell it, not a whole lot, ‘cause there sure be a whole lot of people lighting shit on fire when we’re paying out $57 billion a year to prevent them from doing so.
The problem is that we are coming at this problem of crime in all the wrong way. We have to get to the root of what causes crime and tackle those issues rather than trying to deal with the after effects. And to be honest, it’s just not that complicated. Wealth inequality and poverty are the single greatest factors in crime rates. Study after study shows us that crime is correlated with poverty and that as the schism between wealthy and poor widens, incidents of crime skyrocket. If you want to feel safe and lower the crime rate, stop spending $57 billion on police and prisons, and reallocate those resources to preventing crime in the first place. Use it to close the opportunity gap for those in lower socioeconomic conditions that give rise to crime in the first place. Give kids in impoverished neighbourhoods an opportunity to go to college, and they won’t be carjacking you on the street corner later.
But this, of course, would require the sacrifice from the top 1% to pay higher taxes in order to even the playing field for all, and we all know they aren’t going to do that willingly. No, they’d rather hire more police and more security guards so they can fill more prisons with all the “hoodlums” their affluence created. Better yet, they will employ truth-twisting propaganda machines to implement fear mongering techniques aimed at scaring the everlasting shit out of you, so that you fork up the tax money to pay for those things for them.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com