Sunday, March 18, 2012

County 2012

My wife, Ellen, asked an inspired question recently, after reading about the Kony 2012 video, produced to stir moral outrage about African war criminal, Joseph Kony, who had kidnapped, enslaved and exploited thousands of kids for years.

“Why doesn’t somebody do a “Kony 2012” video to save the kids in America?” she said.

Great point. Why haven’t we called out the gangs and thugs on the inner city streets who are blasting babies and ladies for drugs, money, sneakers and retribution?

If you’ve ever wondered why our law enforcement system is failing, you should have been with me last night at a Dearborn, Michigan St. Patrick’s Day party. As I strolled through the jovial crowd I bumped into one of the few younger professionals there.  She was a county prosecutor just a couple years out of law school and loving her job in a major metropolitan area.

So, I asked her. "What do we need to do to stop juvenile crime?"

“Lock up kids who get in trouble,” the young district attorney replied.

She went onto explain that when kids commit serious crimes, they’re jailed until the trial in a facility about the size of a suburban home. But after trial, they are generally sentenced to halfway houses and allowed to go home.  Juvi law is toothless in Wayne County and kids go back to the streets to become hardened criminals, because there is no appropriated corrections facility for them.

The same is true for adults driving under the influence. Judges have limited beds to house the      40,000-plus DUI’s in Wayne County each year. So, sentences are suspended.

“Even if we fine you $15,000 for your third DUI, if you stop paying after a year, who’s going to come after you?” the prosecutor asked.  “We don’t have the resources to pursue you, and unless you get arrested again, we really won’t know you've stopped paying.”

The more we talked, the more apparent it became that the declining tax base in Wayne County was impacting vital resources cops and courts need to enforce our laws.

“In Macomb County, because they have more people who actually pay their taxes, the prosecutors earn significantly more than we do,” the young lawyer explained.

If you campaign to lower taxes, be careful. There’s a price and consequences. We get what we pay for. A deregulated, free-market society.

I’m looking forward to seeing the news series on that.

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