Dallas will no longer prosecute 'petty crimes'
Is this the face of criminal justice "reform"?
Dallas County district attorney John Creuzot is enacting sweeping changes to the way his office deals with crime. It appears that Creuzot will be giving petty criminals a pass.
Creuzot will "decriminalize" most petty crimes against property, reform the bail system, and refuse to prosecute first-time drug offenders.
Dallas Morning News:
But as we work toward improvements, we are apprehensive about Creuzot's plan to decriminalize low-level crimes. It has the potential to send the wrong message about our tolerance for any crime in this county. We worry about the new policy creating a system that tells petty criminals their bad acts are OK and that demands police officers look the other way.
And we can't lose sight of the thousands of real victims of these crimes for which their experiences erode their feelings of safety — real or perceived — in their neighborhoods.
Yes — the victims. There are few crimes that are "victimless," and most victims are traumatized by the crimes committed against them. But Creuzot has created a brand new justice program that he calls "decriminalizing poverty" — as if being poor were an excuse to break the law.
Still, we worry that some aspects of his policy that he calls "decriminalizing poverty" may go too far in the other direction, particularly at a time when residents across this region are worried about increased crime in their neighborhoods, from package theft to car break-ins.
Creuzot says he'll decline to prosecute theft of personal items worth less than $750 unless the theft was for financial gain. He says he's in the process of dismissing all misdemeanor marijuana cases filed before he took office with a few exceptions including those where a deadly weapon was used. And he'll stop prosecuting most first-time marijuana offenses and some misdemeanors that he believes often stem from poverty.
We remind Creuzot that most poor people in this city are law-abiding citizens. And sometimes, petty criminals escalate their activities to more serious offenses when enforcement is slack on more minor crimes.
The "broken windows" theory of crime prevention cleaned up New York City in the 1990s, turning an unlivable hell-hole into a more civilized city. And it was exactly the kind of petty crimes that Creuzot will now refuse to prosecute that got so many criminals off the street and improved the quality of life for all New Yorkers, rich and poor. The murder rate went way down, as did rates for violent crime. It turned out that many of those "petty criminals" also engaged in violent acts. Getting them off the streets of New York worked.
But criminal justice "reformers" hated the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement. Too many minorities went to jail. The police searches of random teens was deemed excessive. The concept that if you break the law, you pay the price will now go out the window as poverty becomes an excuse for lawbreaking.
This is a racist policy. It presupposes that the poor are incapable of restraining themselves and acting within the law. While fewer minorities will go to jail, and more criminals will be able to make bail, the law-abiding citizens of Dallas will suffer the consequences of this "kinder, gentler" criminal justice system.
We should revisit the issue of crime in Dallas in a year or two. How bad do you think it will get?