Tag Archives: Crime

Kvick Tänkare

Incredible piece about the attempts of researchers to understand the migration and behavior of Great White sharks.  What do you do after spending years of your life and lots of money and your conclusion is:  ““There’s no frickin’ pattern at all,”

The Scandinavians have been producing quality crime fiction for years.  Who knew they also produced some of the more intriguing crime reality as well.  GQ puts together a lengthy piece about a man who may be a serial killer, cannibal, sadist, pedophile…or he might be a really disturbed guy who was almost a killer, sadist and pedophile who was (intentionally or not) set up to take the blame for 30 homicides by an incompetent and overzealous judicial system.

The Boston Globe has done an amazing piece of investigative reporting about the Tsarnaev brothers (of Boston Bombing infamy).  Really, you don’t want to miss this.

In the daily to and fro of putting out fires and addressing the next crisis, is anyone thinking about out long (and I mean long) term survival as a species?  After all, over 99% of all species that have lived are now extinct and we continue to learn new ways we might get snuffed out all the time.  Here’s a piece about a group of people thinking about what our existential threats might be and how we should think about them.

I was really shocked when I saw Supersize Me! back in 2004 but now research is indicating it might not be quite as cut and dried as that documentary looked.
I really thought I enjoyed the first season of House of Cards.  The plot kind of went off the rails and it was almost like the writers ultimately felt like they couldn’t commit to a straight up political drama and so had to get all John Grisham in there.  If you’re looking for a good political drama I highly recommend the Danish series Borgen.  Really quality acting and plotting.  Check it out.
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I don’t know what’s going on but the past few years have seen an explosion of quality TV and film from Scandinavia.

On circular reporting…

Just two observations about the recent shooting in Connecticut.  The first is kind of a policy thing and the second is how this event relates to intelligence analysis:

I honestly can’t figure out if people are honestly surprised and horrified by these events.  After all, it’s not like mass shootings are a rare occurrence in the U.S.  Consider the following:

  • We have absolutely NO way to track the vast majority of firearm ownership changes in this country.  We can figure out who purchased one from a dealer but at that point they enter a big black hole, never to be seen again.  And we’ve got a LOT of guns:

  • While the mentally ill aren’t that much more violent than the general public (does that make you feel better?) our mental health system and culture towards it is so atrocious that there are few opportunities to intervene in many instances.  Basically, we hope the worst of them will get strung out on illegal drugs and self-medicate themselves to death, allowing us to ignore the problem.

Now, in intelligence analysis threat is defined as the intersection of capability and intent (more from me about this here).  Yet again, however, we’re about to forget that equation. If you want to reduce the threat you either have to reduce the capabilities of those you’re worried about (and here we’re talking about their ability to access firearms, ammunition and/or their targets) or reduce their intent.

We don’t seem to be able to even talk about limiting gun ownership in any way (even requiring all owners have firearms training will be portrayed as a totalitarian blow against freedom) so, despite the post shooting gnashing of teeth from those on the left, I think that’s going to go precisely nowhere 1.

And let’s be honest, does anyone see increased funding for mental health happening?  The right will say it’s yet another example of creeping socialism and the left is going to stamp it’s feet about guns all day. 2

So, events like last Friday are tragic but they shouldn’t be shocking or tragic.  Someone once said that Americans get the government they deserve (or something like that).  Well, we also get the crime that we deserve.  If you want unlimited gun ownership and consider mental health an issue of ‘personal responsibility’ then you’re going to get events like this.  If you want, you can hire more cops, give them bigger guns and more power to peep into your lives but do you really want to live in an armed camp for the rest of your lives?

<\soapbox>

Ok, so onto implications for intelligence analysis.

Since our law enforcement/homeland security community is essentially a competitive beast, what you will see (or would see if you could peep behind the curtain) is a mass of products flooding the system about this event.  Almost all of them will be meaningless drivel.  Cut and paste summaries from open source news outlets with some boilerplate language lifted from DHS’s ‘How to respond to an active shooter’ booklet.  These products are going to ping around the system like pinballs, filling up inboxes and (for the most part) going unread.

Why will so many of these repetitive products be made?  Because every agency needs to appear to be doing something.  To paraphrase Sir Humphrey:

[They] must be allowed to panic. They need activity. It is their substitute for achievement.

That way, when budget time rolls around they can proudly point to product X and say ‘We disseminated a product to all the schools within 4 hours of news of the shooting.’  What you won’t hear is anything concrete and measurable about the utility of said product.  That’s because usually there is very little.

Of additional concern is the use of resources in cases like this.  Does anyone think that North Carolina’s and South Carolina’s (purely a hypothetical example) take on this event will be (or should be) substantively different?  Rather than each devoting anlayst(s) to craft a product might it be worth while to produce one that applies to both.  Perhaps, in cases like this, even a national level product?

But that doesn’t happen.  So, beginning on Friday you had agencies all over the country and at all levels crafting products that were essentially the same thing.  Those were resources that could have been devoted elsewhere, perhaps to more credible, local purposes.  Given the sketchy details in the first few hours and the unremarkable aspects of this particular case a fairly generic piece that applies broadly would be fine here.

The other problem with all these reports is their impact on perception of a problem.  Even though these reports will all contain virtually the same information, the number number of these reports (I suspect) has some subconscious impact on perceptions of what threats are most likely and most dangerous.

For example, there have been a number of high profile mass shootings since the summer.  The open source media has reported on them quite heavily and the public safety community has an irritating trend of only following news items that appear on CNN or Fox.  So, in the wake of each shooting has been a flood of official products regurgitating the same information.

The problem is that few, if any, are looking at whether this is something substantially different, a spike in incidents that statistically happens occasionally or just the result of increased media reporting.  And since no one asks that question, people impose their own, evidence free, interpretations on these events.

And that, in turn, can lead us back down to focusing on things we shouldn’t.

rinse…lather…repeat

  1. alternately, some sort of law will pass that will make people feel good but not actually impact the threat equation. For example, some sort of assault weapons ban that won’t do anything to curb the vast secondary market or address the fact that handguns are the big problem.
  2. Btw, this isn’t really the place but, in my humble opinion, this could be solved by reading the 2nd amendment as it was written and allowing unfettered ownership of arms to be contingent on membership in a ‘well regulated militia’.  But, nobody gives a crap what I think so nertz to me.

What’s going on in Malmö?

The city of Malmö has been having a bit of a problem with violence.

Just a few days ago, a man was shot (and killed) in his car making the third homicide in the city since the year began.  Several hours after the most recent killing, a pipe bomb was detonated outside a police station in the city.

In typical Swedish style the police released a statement, saying that they were “embarrassed and irritated” by the crime problem in the city.

huh…Yeah, homicides and bombs can really get under your skin.

But there seems to be some dynamic going on in Malmö that is distinct from the rest of the country.  Statistics from the National Council on Crime Prevention show…

…that in 2011, firearms were used in 13 cases per 100,000 residents in Malmö, compared with four in Stockholm and six in Gothenburg.

Now, English language stories about this subject are only a small slice of what’s available on this story so I’m only getting a portion of a portion of this story.  Still, the decision to close the entrance to the hospital in Malmö sounds like this is not a problem of ‘crazy kids’, ‘crackheads’ or some other unorganized crime phenomenon.

As a crowd of some 60 people began to gather outside the entrance, the police were forced to push them back in a bid to secure those inside.

“The staff felt threatened by the large quantity of people trying to push in,” said Mats Hansson of the Malmö health care union to DN.

The authorities claimed that it was necessary to close the entrance to reduce the risk of criminal gangs who are involved in the ongoing escalation of violence in Skåne getting inside and causing even more trouble.

Maddeningly, it’s not clear from the story who these 60 people were or what they wanted.

Now, one of the taboo subjects in polite Swedish society is the role immigration has played on crime.  One the one hand, there’s some history of racism and immigration is an easy scape goat for other societal ills.  On the other, Sweden has an incredibly liberal immigration policy and a less than stellar approach to integration.

So, for example, according to the Wiki of Pedia, Malmö has an immigrant population of 30%.  That need not be a matter of concern but if you look at the country of origin of many of these immigrants it does read like a ‘who’s who’ of organized criminal group homelands.

  1. Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Former Yugoslavia (14,450)
  2. IraqIraq (10,000)
  3. DenmarkDenmark (9,200)
  4. PolandPoland (6,900)
  5. LebanonLebanon (3,900)
  6. IranIran (3,600)
  7. Palestinian territoriesPalestine (2,500)
  8. TurkeyTurkey (2,300)
  9. AfghanistanAfghanistan (2,100)
  10. RomaniaRomania (2.050)

And let’s be clear here.  In comparison with cities in the U.S., Malmö is a crime free Utopia.  It has more than a quarter million inhabitants.  The city of…oh….Trenton, NJ has about a third of that population and an equal number of homicides so far this year.

But some of the crime trends are disturbing.  Whereas, a lot of violent crime in the U.S. like this (some dude shot in his car at night) is usually drug dealer vs. drug dealer (or associates), there’s also been a rise in anti-Semetic and anti-immigrant crime in the city.

The police in Malmö have registered a total number of 21 anti-Semitic crimes and 105 crimes against immigrants in the first half of 2011.

The total number last year was 20 and 116, respectively, for the same type of crimes.

ugh…this is pretty depressing.  How about some Roller Derby?

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Out of the pages of a Henning Mankell novel

Sweden has built itself up quite a reputation for murder mystery novels which seems a bit odd given their low crime rates.  But here is a story that sounds ready made for Kurt Wallander.

A man and a woman were found brutally murdered on a farm in western Sweden on Wednesday afternoon after the couple failed to turn up for choir practice.

Police describe the victims as a pair of well-meaning farmers who operated a farm in the small village of Långared, about 15 kilometres north of Alingsås.

“It’s a very ugly murder. This is a blameless, industrious pair of farmers who, for some reason, have been subjected to extremely aggravated violence,” Haraldsson told the TT news agency.

Mrs. TwShiloh gave an extra, interesting bit of information.  In a country of 9 million that has a low crime rate and almost all news is local, this story was buried on one at least one of the major news agency’s sites.

Update:  The news on this story picked up after I first wrote this and it appears three people have been arrested of this crime.  Apart from cryptically saying that ‘items were missing’ from the victims home details of a motive remain unknown.  In fact, (if I wanted to indulge the conspiracy theorist in me) I could point out that the above line was used so that readers would assume that theft was the motive when, in fact, it wasn’t.  After all, if the suspects were motivated to kill the victims for a simple theft in order to score a few bucks, why not just say that?

Of course, I’ve reading a story that came originally from a foreign news source so it is possible that something has been lost in translation.  Or I may have just stumbled upon a secret so terrible, it’s been kept hidden for hundreds of years…

Gang members…a kaleidoscope of crazy

Why in the world do gang members advertise their presence by prominently displaying ‘colors’, handsigns or tattoos?

Red? Really? It's really only acceptable between May Day and Labor Day...

If you think about it, this display doesn’t seem to make much sense.  After all, this is the equivalent of hiring a guy with a sign that says ‘This guy’s going to commit criminal activity’ with an arrow pointing at you who follows you around all day with a small mariachi band (if they can be pried away from serenading local cetaceans).  The point being, if you’ve decided to embark upon a life of crime it seems the last thing you’d want to do is draw attention to yourself but gang displays like this are quite clearly designed to do just that.

So, what’s the deal?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  First, I’d like to point out that the paragraph above contained at least one cognitive bias.  It assumes that all criminals would conduct their activity as I would.  As someone with my values, priorities and (de)motivators.  So, my priorities might look something like this:

  • avoid capture/arrest
  • maximize profit
  • conceal my criminal activity from all but the bare minimum of people who are required to facilitate it

To assume everyone else would have those same priorities would be to commit the sin of ‘mirror imaging‘.  From St. Heuer:

One kind of assumption an analyst should always recognize and question is mirror-imaging–filling gaps in the analyst’s own knowledge by assuming that the other side is likely to act in a certain way because that is how the US would act under similar circumstances. To say, “if I were a Russian intelligence officer …” or “if I were running the Indian Government …” is mirror-imaging.

So, let’s kick that ‘Well, if I were a criminal, I’d…” practice to the curb.  While Heuer spoke about other nations we need to be aware that even within the U.S. we have different cultures (or, perhaps, sub-cultures).  Even if we and the members of a criminal organization both were born and raised in the same country, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have the same cultural experience and values.  Many of us experienced life in suburban, middle-class America.  That can be very, very different from the experiences of populations that are socially excluded because of their immigrant, economic, racial or social status.  So, mirror imaging is just as fraught with danger for law enforcement analysts as it is for those analyzing international issues.

Now, let’s take a slight detour and discuss frogs and bats (trust me, this will all connect).

The August 5th edition of the Science podcast had a story about about the mating signals of bats and frogs.  The conventional wisdom is that elaborate mating displays (long peacock feathers, frog or bat calls) are limited by predators.  At some point the mating display becomes so elaborate that it is the evolutionary equivalent of hiring a guy with a sign that says ‘This guy’s looking to get some’ with an arrow pointing at you who follows you around all day with a small mariachi band.

The only problem with conventional wisdom (at least in this case) is that it appears to be wrong.  What really seems to limit the display of these animals is the cognitive abilities of the females (misogynistic joke censored here).  At some point the ladies get overwhelmed with the frog and bat equivalent of bell bottoms, big collars and all that Hai Karate.

So, what does this have to do with gangs?  Well, perhaps gang displays aren’t really limited by law enforcement pressures.  Maybe there’s another (or other) factors that influence how extensive gang displays are.

The Wall Street Journal has an article about a recent study (full study available here) into just that.  Andrew Mell argues that ‘peacocking’ by gang members sends a signal to ‘potential mates’ (drug customers) that basically says:

…I’m still willing to commit crimes when I have this handicap, I must be pretty good at evading the police. Incompetent criminals couldn’t get away with wearing gang colors.

He also theorizes other messages gang members might send through other sorts of behavior.

A competent criminal might decide to sell drugs near a school, precisely because penalties are higher there. Who would dare do that? Only someone awfully confident in his or her shrewdness.

I got to thinking about this and the theory also fits in another way.  Gang members aren’t only worried about attracting customers.  It’s a big, bad world out there and gang members often cite protection as a reason for membership.  Flashy displays of membership broadcast to potential rivals that they might be biting off more than they can chew if they want to pick on particular gang member.  If you are a criminal network and want to control a particularly lucrative drug territory you probably won’t think twice about an aggressive strategy if there’s one lone person running things.  But, if taking action might start a gang war with another large group you might look for other territory.

This may explain why findings like those in the NJ Gang Surveys have identified a growing allegiance to ‘super gangs’ (particularly the Bloods) and the decline of small, neighborhood gangs.  The former at least provide the promise of a much larger pool of potential allies thereby raising the bar for who might comfortably confront them.

We’re the connected in America

Alex Goldmark writes about MIT’s ‘Connected States of America‘ project.  It’s got some cool examples of ways to present data rather than long lines of boring text (which most people probably wouldn’t read anyway) and get the old synapses firing.

So, I saw this map, which is described thus:

The Connected States of America graphic shows three layers: The United States of America experience an increase in urbanization which is shown in the lowest layer representing the population density per square mile. The center layer shows the mobile connections between the people, where a link represents reciprocal phone calls and the color assigns the respective community which in turn are shown in the communities layer. The height of the link represents call volume between any two counties.

Then I began thinking about this in terms of crime and ideological extremism.  While it’s become an embedded belief that the internet has made the entire world local I’ve been struck over the years how some criminal and extremist groups seem to have local ‘personalities’ that defy easy explaination.

Two examples will hopefully serve my purpose.  First is animal/environmental extremists.  In the far West, activities by followers of these ideologies are distinctly more confrontational and destructive than on the East Coast (and both are more tame than activities in Europe). Given the anarchic nature of these movements and their long lives I find it difficult to accept that this difference is the result of decisions by some sort of shadowy leadership.

The second example is the MS-13 street gang.  A number of years ago they acquired a reputation for violence and ruthlessness that tends to spread alarm in any community that sees their tag or hears their name.  Yet, their presence does not always equal violence and as the last six years of data from the New Jersey Street Gang Survey indicates, in some states their presence is a big yawn.

So, I wonder  if data like this might provide some insight into regional distinctions based on the idea that the more contact someone in one geographical region has with another the more likely they are to share not just information but cultural norms (including criminal behavior).

Now, obviously there are many (many) more ways to communicate than through AT&T phone and SMS connections but this is interesting nonetheless.

Describing the top image, above, the authors describe how the country looks if you view it through connections of people rather than :

Administrative boundaries are often at odds if one compares these to a bottom up approach calculating the regional delineation only based on how people interact. Communities based on call data is one example of how such interaction-based communities can be defined. The result is striking in that some states merge and others split. For example sister states emerge, such as Georgia and Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and Tennessee and Kentucky among others. Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and West Virginia form a new “state”, while St. Louis (Missouri) expands its reach and splits Illinois into two communities. New Jersey and California also split into two separate communities because of large cities. In contrast, Texas remains whole, despite potentially splitting cities of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. We observe that the inter-city communication is strong enough to hold Texas together.

There’s also an interactive map which lets you see how any county within the country is connected (via either cell phone calls or SMS) to every other county in the nature by the number of connections.  It doesn’t account for population but it does have some interesting potential.

Perhaps understanding patterns of thought (criminal or non-criminal) requires us to look at different kinds of maps…

Social media and violence

A source (vetted with direct access) attended a recent talk at Princeton University about the uses of social media in the planning and execution (bad choice of words) of violence among ‘street crews’ in Harlem.  It is described thus:

Like young people elsewhere, teens in Harlem crews move seamlessly across digital and physical space in the course of daily communication and in hanging out. Unlike their middle-class peers, however, these young persons adapt interactive technology to a competitive social scene removed from school and located instead on the street where status is derived from violence. This presentation explores the application of mainstream social media like Twitter to the promotion, production, and coordination of status-based youth violence, as well as to its prevention.


The scripting of crime

A little more than a month ago, EIA had a super post about crime analysis which talks about ‘crime scripts':

Each activity is broken down into “acts” like in a play or the scenes in our film. Reading through, you get a sequential chain of criminal decisions and behaviours, along with what is required to undertake each act successfully. So if the poaching of a tiger is one act or scene, to “perform” the act successfully, preparation activities are inherent: poachers gather local intelligence about tiger sightings; they identify the water holes the tiger has frequented; they block paths to all water holes but one, then poison water in the remaining hole, and so on.

Coincidentally, I was recently at a training where the instructor introduced this concept and applied it to a scenario based exercise.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard of this concept in such a formalized way and I’ve even more embarrassed to say it didn’t occur to me.  The military has used the idea of intelligence indicators for decades to help identify potential enemy courses of action but this is a bit more advanced in that it links steps of crime sequentially (where possible) and potential countermeasures.

This creates a really nice fit with Intelligence Led Policing and I can see significant benefits at the local level where your police department is dealing with repeat crimes (particularly property crimes).  This may allow you to find choke points (or at least more vulnerable parts) of the crime event chain and allow you to focus your efforts there for a bigger payoff.

There’s some really interesting potential here, especially if you mash it up with some structured analytical techniques like structured brainstorming, red cell analysis, key assumptions check, etc.

And so, from this page, here’s a script for joyriding :

Steps in Joyriding and Associated Responses

STAGES STEPS RESPONSES
Preparation Get tools (e.g., screwdriver, duplicate keys, slidehammer, short steel tube)
Select co-offender
Control sales of equipment such as hand scanners and duplicate keys
Entering setting Enter parking lot Parking lot barriers; attendants; few entrances
Enabling conditions Loiter unobtrusively CCTV and/or regular patrols to deter loiterers
Selecting target Reject alarmed cars
Choose suitable vehicle
Visible protection of tempting vehicles
Completing the theft Enter car (duplicate keys, use screwdriver)
Break ignition lock (tube or slide-hammer)
Hot wire ignition and start car
CCTV to monitor suspicious behavior; improve natural surveillance of lot; vehicle alarm to alert security; vehicle immobilizer
Exiting the setting Leave parking lot Attendants or other exit barriers
Aftermath Use car to joyride
Abandon car on wasteland
Set fire to car
Vehicle-tracking system activated; vehicle curfew program; surveillance of dumping sites

Source: Cornish, Derek (1994). “The Procedural Analysis of Offending and its Relevance for Situational Prevention.” Crime Prevention Studies, volume 3. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press

 

Kvick Tänkare

A post about deforestation in Africa.  Ethiopia doesn’t have much forested land left.  Most of it has given way to farming and pastures.

Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches believe they should maintain a home for all of God’s creatures around their places of worship. The result? Forests ringing churches.

There are some 35,000 church forests in Ethiopia, ranging in size from a few acres to 300 hectares…These spiritually-protected woods, also known as coptic forests, comprise a decent chunk of the 5 percent of Ethiopia’s historical forests that are still standing.

This image is from BoingBoing but they didn’t provide any details of what it might be.  Seems pretty clear to me.  The Ruskies are planning on building an army of cyborg dogs (of the Lassie variety, apparently).  This would allow them to fetch tennis balls in outer space or deep under the ocean.  As we have no  similar capability, we’ll quickly be crushed.

Dan Drezner has a guest post by a fellow scholar about the quest for political scientists to be relevant.  I’d argue you can take out the ‘political scientist’ phrase and replace it with ‘intelligence analyst’ and get a very similar feeling.  Yes, I know analysts aren’t supposed to do policy recommendations but they are supposed to be relevant to decision making and that’s a pretty fine line.  However you feel about that particular point, however, I’m convinced there’s some relavance here.  I was going to do a whole post on the article but I ended up just quoting it at such length that you should really just check it out.

Oh…and it’s got zombies in it.

The Wall Street Journal had a nice article about Pat Craig whose life’s work has been making a home for unwanted/discarded carnivores.

His Wild Animal Sanctuary, as he calls it, is the largest of its kind in the U.S., he says, with a food budget alone of nearly $500,000 a year. In all, the not-for-profit relies on donations to support most of its nearly $2 million-a-year budget. Visitors, who pay $10 apiece, can view the animals from an elevated walkway.

If you’ve got a couple of spare bucks you could do worse than to send a few to his Wild Animal Sanctuary.

Speaking of animals, the illegal animal trade is estimated to top $6 billion a year.  As an illegal money maker it is “exceeded only by the drugs and arms trades.” Also, such activity tends to get much, much less attention that the transport of narcotics or weapons (plus usually much smaller penalties if you’re caught and convicted) so it’s a big draw for criminals.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 15,562kg of ivory were seized between 1989 and 2009, with 66 per cent of this collected in the last decade. Analysis…indicates three-quarters of this was obtained through organised crime rings. In Tanzania, the picture is even worse, with 68 per cent of the 76,293kg of ivory seized during this period being smuggled by organised crime.

Finally, check this out from Grey’s Blog. Pretty cool…

Give the fear engine another turn

State and local governments have been feeling the financial squeeze for a couple of years now and the future ain’t lookin’ too good either.  Recently, there have been discussions about having to lay off police officers to meet budget requirements.  No surprise, police unions have been fighting such actions by claiming crime will skyrocket.  Some police departments have gone overboard in that regard, essentially telling people ‘Fork over the money or your family will be murdered.’  While I find that to be in bad taste, I don’t find it particularly interesting.  After all, they’re just doing what interest groups do:  trying to get the best deal for their constituents.

What is interesting, is the commentary you read accompanying stories on this subject.  They’re overwhelmingly (at least to my anecdotal perusing) supportive of the ‘No price is too high’ camp and it reminds me quite a bit of the attitude towards military spending in this country since 2001.  With few exceptions, to even discuss cuts in these security budgets was to be associated with the simple minded or treasonous.

And yet, are the costs justified?

Slate had a decent article that outlines how public perception of crime and actual crime rates not only don’t synch but, at least for the last 20 years, have actually been going in opposite directions.

Even as crime rates have gone down around the country over the last 20 years, our fear of crime hasn’t changed much at all. Between 1990 and 2009, the national violent-crime rate was halved, while property crime dropped to 60 percent of its previous rate, according to the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. But almost every year since 1989, most Americans have told pollsters they believe crime is getting worse.

And just like with ‘Homeland Security’ we get caught in a ratchet-like situation where we can never tone down the law enforcement heavy approach (that would be coddling criminals) even when the threat is reduced.   Now, sometimes the threat is reduced because of some new countermeasure and eliminating that would just bring back the criminal activity you don’t want.  But, there are few (I only refrain from saying ‘none’ because I’m not omniscient) measures in place to even try to identify the effects of any particular crime control measures.  Did the ‘three strikes’ rule reduce crime?  Do offender registries make people safer or just push offenders to commit more crimes due to lack of options?  What kind of evidence would be required to eliminate those rules?

The other thing to keep in mind is that for years rules like these have been the justification for fueling the Enforcement-Industrial Complex.  They provide rationals for pumping more money into enforcement and all that focus reinforces the belief that things are getting more dangerous.

I think it’s no coincidence that law enforcement has become more and more enamored with the military over the past decade or so (probably longer) since they’re using some of the same tactics when it comes to procurement / budget aggrandizement / budget protection.

And speaking of military budgets, it appears the military gets another pass from this year’s budget.  Kaplan has a nice roundup of what it doesn’t do much of…like cut stuff we aren’t gonna need.

For instance, this budget includes $24.6 billion for 11 new ships, including $4 billion for two new Virginia-class submarines and $1 billion for the down payment on a new aircraft carrier.

Lawmakers should ask the Navy to lay out (in closed-door hearings, if need be) the precise scenarios in which the United States needs more submarines and aircraft carriers than it already has. They’ll find the scenarios are pretty far-fetched.

The budget also includes $9.4 billion to buy 32 F-35 stealth fighter planes. The F-35 has run into so many technical problems and delays that Gates is also requesting $3.5 billion to build more of the planes that the F-35 was supposed to replace, including 28 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter-attack jets and 12 EA-18G radar planes. Gates is also asking for $2 billion to upgrade the radar on older F-15 planes.

We already have (or have funded) 189 F-22 stealth fighters and 58 F-35s, enough to counter exotic threats from as-yet-nonexistent advanced air threats posed by potential enemies. The older designs, few of which have ever been shot down even though they’re not “stealthy,” are perfectly adequate for all other scenarios.

I shall neither hold my breath for the appropriate questions to be asked or for anyone to actually listen to the answers…