Gambling with our lives

When someone has been arrested more than 20 times for burglary one would think the justice system would find a place to incarcerate him for the rest of his life. Burglars, especially home-invaders, are among the worst type of criminals because they often perpetrate their malevolent crime in the middle of the night when people are most vulnerable. Although it is often said that these nocturnal interlopers are non-violent and only seeking to commit larceny, they are opportunists who will elevate their crime to more serious levels if the opportunity arises and they think they can get away with it.

The 2 savages who broke into the home of a prominent physician and his family in Connecticut should never have been walking loose in a civilized society. Doctor William Petit, a prominent endocrinologist, was brutally beaten with a baseball bat, tied up and thrown into the basement of the home while the burglars sexually assaulted his wife and 2 daughters. Early the next morning, the doctor's wife was forced to withdraw money from a local bank. When the animal got her back home the rape-torture continued. Ultimately, the wife was strangled and the daughters, who had been tied to their beds, were doused with gasoline and the house was torched.

In the meantime, authorities were alerted by bank officials who felt there was something suspicious about the early morning transaction. The police captured the monsters as they were fleeing the blazing structure. Although the husband survived, his family perished in the fire.  The demented murderers, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26 and Steven Hayes, 44, were apprehended after they crashed their getaway vehicle, the Petits' car, into three police cruisers. They are each being held on $15 million bond.

This is another example of the lack of security we have in a justice system with no teeth. Already, correction officials have taken to the airwaves to say it's not the fault of prosecutors or judges because there is not enough room in our prisons, hence, non-violent offenders often do little time. Are you as tired as I am of hearing that the dregs of society must be put back on the street because there are no vacancies at the justice motel? Well, how many times does a person have to be arrested before it becomes clear that he is a tragedy waiting to occur? Burglary is a serious felony, yet these 2 home-invaders, turned rapist-murderers, were nabbed more than 20 times each, yet, those who are paid to keep us safe, didn't see them as enough of a threat to hold onto them.

Instead, they were freed again and again, repeatedly exposing communities to the type of tragedy that inevitably happened. These horrific crimes are being carried out all over this country, leaving a wake of destruction for more families than you can count. Yes, when it happens to a prominent family it becomes more newsworthy. Such increased publicity should be used to make all of us aware of the constant danger we face when we accept such ludicrous explanations as overcrowded prisons. Suppose we had overcrowding in the lion cages at the local zoos? Would we open the gates and set the predators loose into the neighborhood?

The fact is, there are no valid excuses for exposing the innocent public to the savagery of the brutal whims of societal misfits who have proven their propensity for criminal activity on numerous occasions. Every time a recidivist criminal is thrust back into the population it's a roll of the dice as to how many lives will be lost.

Now begins the long, slow, arduous process of trial and punishment. While the victims are buried and the lone survivor deals with recovery from his wounds and a never ending nightmare of grief, the creatures of the night will be fed, clothed and sheltered for years before anything resembling justice will occur. This is the type of crime that could, and should, be tried quickly, resulting in a guilty verdict and an immediate execution. Not only did the police catch them as they were leaving the burning edifice, they have an eyewitness to the merciless slaughter.

Nevertheless, the system will hobble along at its usual ludicrous pace, totally incapable of recognizing the perils it perpetuates. It's about as silly as setting bail for the miscreants at $15 million each, instead of simply stating the obvious, that no amount would be enough. Yes, now that these beasts have ravaged a family and shocked a nation, they will finally be kept in their cages. How many other savage ex-cons, well aware of the weaknesses in the system, are watching, stalking and waiting for the right time to strike? 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob
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