Pubdate: Wed, 05 May 2004
Source: Gainesville Sun, The (FL)
Copyright: 2004 The Gainesville Sun
Author: Michael S. Belle


The May 3 article titled "Crime-fighting cost is $167 billion"
addressed the rapid increase in national costs for fighting crime. Why
the massive increase in arrests and spending on crime since 1982? Is
it keeping people safe?

I have a theory. In 1982, according to The Sun article, there were 12
million arrests made in America, climbing to 13.7 million by 2001.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Web site, 676,000 drug law
violation arrests were made in 1982, which 19 years later increased to

While some increase in arrests can be explained by increase in
population, it is alarming to me that over half of the increase can be
attributed directly to the War on Drugs.

This isn't nearly shocking enough; simply the tip of the iceberg.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Web site, of the
drug violation arrests in 2001, 40 percent of those, or 641,109, were
for marijuana possession alone. That's roughly 23 times the number of
those arrested annually in forcible rape cases in our country in 2001.
It is 14,000 more arrests than were made for total violent crimes in

Over a quarter of those arrested in 2001 for drug violations were
under the age of 25. And let's not even delve into the racial
inequities in drug violation arrests.

The Sun's article states that the number of inmates in local and
county jails tripled from 1985 to 2001. There is a clear opportunity
cost of concentrating law enforcement efforts on a failed, costly, and
harmful War on Drugs.

We have less manpower and less resources available to keep us safe. We
have overcrowded jails; we have shoved non-violent offenders in cells
with violent offenders and being raped, in our own county.

On May 14, a committee called Making Gainesville Safer will meet to
advise Mayor-elect Pegeen Hanrahan in addressing, among other things,
proper allocation of our resources in protecting citizens. I hope
members of this committee, will consider these facts.

While sense on this issue has eluded the ideology of the mainstream
parties, hopefully it will not elude this committee.

Michael S. Belle, Gainesville 
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