Courtesy of the always-worthwhile New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library – I keep thinking there must be a clever pun in there somewhere; I mean, its the name of a blog, isnt it? – heres an NPR story about privatizing the police:
In the past, remote communities like this one [i.e., Wintergreen Resort, Virginia, along the Appalachian Trail] were ripe for thieves. But since residents started paying for their own private officers, crime has dropped 70 percent.
Many of the residents also did something else: They installed burglar alarms. Nationwide, one in four homes now has one. The alarms and an explosion of other devices, like steel bars, stronger doors and security glass, make it more of a hassle to break into homes, criminologists say.
Even locks, the most basic anti-burglary device, have undergone major changes since the 1970s.
"Good locks make all the difference," locksmith Rahm Bunnag says.
Locks are far more secure than they were 30 years ago, he says. Theyre far more intricate, he says, holding up two keys.
One, made by Ossa, has a second set of cuts on the side. Another, made by Medico, "looks like a normal key, but when you look down at the cuts, notice that its cut at an angle. Theres a 98 percent chance that says you cant pick it," Bunnag says.
The 1970s also saw the widespread introduction of the deadbolt. But the biggest change when it comes to locks, criminologists say, is that people started using them.
I have never understood why so many liberals, who are ideologically opposed to deregulation and privatization in other areas of life, are so comfortable with the idea that law enforcement should be an individual activity. Security is a tax on the honest, as Bruce Schneier says (see post 52), and the folks in Wintergreen Resort are paying it, with their locks and private police force.
The NPR story also mentions the "1 million private police and security guards at work in residential communities" – a mind-boggling number. Thats a million people who have jobs because the government cant be counted on to perform its most basic function, which is to protect its citizens from harm.
Meanwhile, Justice Stevens recently wrote about how a state can "grant its citizens broader protection than the Federal Constitution requires". By "protection" he meant concealing reliable, relevant evidence from its juries, on the theory that when a state prevents itself from convicting a lawbreaker of breaking the law, the state is protecting its citizens from unconstitutional actions by police committed many months earlier – your basic space-time anomaly.
The fact that a states citizens might feel the need to hire private police forces and make their homes into little castles in fact as well as in rhetoric is neither here nor there. The little dears might think they need protection from criminals, but the Supreme Court knows better: they need protection from the states own courts, which might otherwise convict them.
Then again, the basic concept of "more protection under the state Constitution" is hardly new: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe expressed it in a three-word slogan many decades ago.
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