Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Peer Enforcement Creates Crime
Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 12/7/2011
A few weeks ago, on KAJO’s talk show, when City Manager Laurel Samson was asked about enforcing our litter code, she said that we use “peer pressure” to enforce it. When it was pointed out that peer pressure doesn’t work, which is why we wrote a law, she said that we have “more important” crimes to go after.
Indeed, we are told that our little city has more major crime than any other city of its size in Oregon. There may be a connection. It didn’t used to be that way back in the 80’s, when this town was so clean it reminded me of Goshen, Indiana, where there is practically no litter or weeds.
Last week, I asked the County to clean up their fairgrounds; I would appreciate some peer pressure from the City to the County to follow our code. Their weeds and trash alongside the beginning of Redwood Avenue sets the tone for the street all the way down past Willow.
Last week, I was pointing out that peer pressure apparently works against enforcing the law among owners of large vacant lots; they apply pressure to the City not to enforce its code, as Tim Cummings did a few months back.
At the other end of the peer pressure spectrum, in poorer neighborhoods, it is downright dangerous to ask one’s neighbor to clean up his property. I have had one neighbor yelling at me in my yard because I asked through the police, who put the blame on me. I’ve had another man damage a security door in his frustration at not finding me home after I complained. I told you about a case where a man killed his neighbors and other people because he was directly asked by the neighbors to clean up his yard. Clearly, the City cannot rely on peer pressure in poorer neighborhoods.
Between these two extremes, it is still considered rude to ask one’s neighbor to clean up his property. The best I’ve seen done is an offer to cut weeds, which got the person moving to do it himself with family help. But this is rare, as one might have to actually do the work.
Enforcement of nuisance codes by peer pressure or complaint only creates slums in poor neighborhoods and crime in all neighborhoods. Litter and weeds make criminals comfortable. They are in their element: where people ignore their neighbors and police aren’t keeping the most basic order. But if police were noticing litter and telling people to pick it up, they might see signs of “more important” criminal activity.
Published at Yahoo Voices.