Society pays a high price when prosecutors fail to punish crime

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Imagine a society in which prostitutes could solicit johns for sex just yards from police officers, who do little more than wave them on their way. Picture yourself walking through a park with your children, where a homeless person is free to relieve himself beside the park bench where he is stashing the illegal drugs he bought from a dope dealer operating openly without fear of the police. 

Does that make you feel safe?

Welcome to the new Baltimore, where law enforcement no longer will be prosecuting what it calls “low-level crimes.” These include drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open container violations, and urinating or defecating in public. The city announced the initiative last week after a year-long experiment to slow the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons. 

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby advocated for the changes, with the backing of Mayor Brandon Scott and City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Law enforcement has said it will partner with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. to provide services to people suffering from mental illness, homelessness and drug addiction to close the gap. 

I say shame, shame, shame. 

Many of these so-called “low-level crimes” include some of the very offenses that tear our society apart and make America sicker and more dangerous. It is simply unacceptable. We can’t allow American society to disintegrate one city at a time. 

I certainly can understand the challenges that law enforcement officials face. When it comes to prison overcrowding and the desire to give people a second chance, possession of a small amount of drugs shouldn’t necessarily warrant a lengthy prison term.

However, there must be consequences for illegal behavior and violating the law. If officials are not going to enforce the law or prosecute violators, then our laws become totally meaningless. What is the result? 

The answer is anarchy. If people can do whatever they want, whenever they want and to whomever they want without punishment, society begins to fall apart. That is not the America we want for our loved ones.

I understand that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by high rates of incarceration. In fact, at the end of 2018, the Black imprisonment rate (1,501 per 100,000) was nearly twice the rate among Hispanics (797 per 100,000) and more than five times the rate among whites (268 per 100,000), according to Pew Research Center.

It’s a tragedy. It means a generation of Black children is growing up in single-parent homes with father figures behind bars. It’s a breakdown of our nation’s family values and family structure.

But we need to step back and take a breath. Allowing people to commit crimes in order to reduce the jail population is simply not the answer. If that is the case, then what is the reward for the people who do the right thing, abide by the rules and behave in a lawful manner? 

We know from child-rearing that you must offer rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. If there are no consequences, how can a child learn to choose between right and wrong? Similarly, how can we expect people to make smart, conscientious decisions that are good for society if they know they can operate with impunity by prostituting themselves or possessing drugs in public? If we take away the punishment for selling sex on the streets, we are basically giving a tacit stamp of approval.

That is not what America is all about.

Yes, we have an imperfect society. Yes, we need to constantly strive to find new and innovative ways to make this a better place, but erasing accountability for illegal behavior and legalizing actions that have been deemed unacceptable for a reason is not the right recipe.

Baltimore should be ashamed because its officials are essentially pushing a policy that will further damage the city, its residents and the overall moral character of Baltimore. The city closed out 2020 with well over 300 homicides. But to quit prosecuting crimes that tear at the moral fabric of our society will not make the city a safer, more appealing place to live.

Despite the popular saying, rules are not meant to be broken — and neither are our laws. We need the rule of law to maintain a civil and respectable society. 

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags Baltimore Crime drug possession law Prison Prostitution

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