Friday, June 6, 2008

Predators

As noted in my last post, there is something deeply intuitive about the analogies drawn back and forth between animal predators and crime. Both invoke primal fears and strong responses that may have their origins in evolution.

In today's SFChron, columnist C.W.Nevius, who is usually writing about the need to get tough with the homeless and petty criminals, shares some worthy observations about how to handle the coyotes that are moving into some SF neighborhoods. Seeking to prevent human (and dog) encounters with the small wild predators, park officials have put up warning signs (torn down by some misguided persons) and closed off certain trails to humans and dogs. In response to several instances of aggressive coyotes crossing into nearby yards, hunters have been hired to kill the offending creatures.

Nevius points out that discouraging more human and dog activity in the areas now being ceded to the coyotes is a self defeating strategy:

In an attempt to cut down on coyote contact with humans and pets, the Presidio has closed many trails and some roads to dogs. Local residents, who may have moved to the neighborhood because they liked the idea of walking their house pets in the park, can only look glumly at the roped-off areas where they can no longer go.

"The coyotes won," one resident said. "We let them in, and now they've won."


The same logic does apply to crime. The more you can encourage law abiding people to assertively occupy the public streets, the less crime (and more importantly, fear of crime) there is. Strategies to encourage the public may mean more police, but that is an expensive solution. Subsidizing development, creating attractive parks and boulevards are all things we can do to fight crime that do not end up wasting resources in prisons and which we can all enjoy.

1 comment:

Glen Graham said...

During some jury trials I have observed prosecutors try to get the jury either angry or scared to death, saying things like, he will do it again if you cut him loose, send a message, protect society, he is a "predator" and similliar arguments all beyond the scope of the jury instructions which limit the role of the jury to determining if the govt. has met is burden of proof beyond a resonable doubt. The jury instructions limits the job of the jury to basing the decision on the evidence and not emotion and sentiment. Prosecutors seen to be "angry" and want the juries to be "angry" and "scared" and emotional instead of basing their decision on logic and reason, free from prejudice and sentiment.