Feel Safe or Be Safe?

Cincinnati has a real battle for mayor this election and the issue of public safety has dominated the political discussion (Sound Bite into Crime, issue of Aug. 10-16). I´d like to examine the

Cincinnati has a real battle for mayor this election and the issue of public safety has dominated the political discussion (Sound Bite into Crime, issue of Aug. 10-16). I´d like to examine the public safety plans announced by three of the candidates.

David Pepper and Charles Winburn tout the broken window theory popularized by John Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, who wrote in 1982: One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares and breaking more windows costs nothing.

When it comes to policing theory, this translates to zero tolerance for quality of life crimes. This was the rational used by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton in the 1990s to start arresting minor lawbreakers such as squeegee men and panhandlers.

Pepper and Winburn would have us believe that, if there are no squeegee men and panhandlers, dope peddlers will stop selling dope, gang-bangers will stop shooting each other and men will stop raping women. Even discredited theories take 20 years to come to Cincinnati!

Pepper´s plan to decrease the violent crime rate in Cincinnati is to have zero tolerance for quality of life concerns such as noise, graffiti and litter. He makes an obligatory mention of treatment, but no mention of increasing treatment slots. He claims that Cincinnati is understaffed when it comes to its police force.

Winburn promises to increase the Cincinnati Police Department by 200 officers at a cost of $8.5 million. He also promises to build a new jail. He doesn´t say how he´s going to find the money for these projects. Although he claims that he will fight violent crime from all directions and angles, he doesn´t address treatment.

Pepper and Winburn cite New York City as a model in reducing crime; is it the best model? During the same period when New York took this approach and coincidentally saw a reduction in crime rates, San Francisco took a different approach #184#184 alternative sentencing and community involvement #184#184 and saw a larger decrease in crime rates. From 1995 to 1998, San Francisco´s violent crime rate went down 33 percent. New York´s violent crime rate went down 26 precent in the same time period.

While claiming that the Cincinnati Police Department is understaffed, both candidates have omitted some interesting figures about the department compared to other cities: Cincinnati has 31 police officers per 10,000 residents while San Francisco has 29, Louisville has 27, Columbus has 25 and Lexington has 19. The salary of an entry-level officer in Cincinnati is $37,487; in Columbus it´s $30,480, in Lexington $30,274 and in Louisville $27,689. All figures are for the year 2000.

Mark Mallory is pushing boot camps to fight crimes. Boot camps might satisfy the punitive instinct in most of us, but by themselves they´re purely punitive and have not shown to be effective. Mallory does, however, include the aftercare component for boot camps that have shown to reduce crime.

Having a parent in prison is a strong predictor that their child will end up in prison. A policy that promises to lock up people will only increase the prison population. It will not reduce crime. It will not reduce the number of victims.

The lock them up mentality makes most of us feel safe. It does not make us safe. It is time that we got smart on crime!

— Suhith Wickrema, Walnut Hills

Independents Are Worthy

Kudos to Stephanie Dunlap and CityBeat for acknowledging that there are more than four candidates in the Cincinnati mayoral race ($75 and 500 Signatures, issue of Aug. 24-30). I´m disturbed, however, by Dunlap´s disdain for independent candidates.

She wasted more ink cracking wise about Justin Jeffre´s musical career than his campaign issues. Jeffre champions a living wage, small business incentives, riverfront development and accountability in government; his positions are clearly posted on his campaign Web site. Apparently, Dunlap dismissed the site without bothering to actually look at it.

Local media seems to be working overtime to convince voters that motley collections of party sycophants are the only candidates worth covering. Please do the voters a favor; let us decide who the major candidates are. Readers don´t look to CityBeat for the institutionalist perspective.

— J.R. Rininger, Oakley

Editor's Note: Justin Jeffre´s Web site (justinjeffre.com) did not contain campaign positions when the CityBeat story was written.

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