Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Joseph O. Patton: How some make excuses for criminal behavior

Editor’s note: The original version of this article appeared in the July 2008 edition of the Capital City Free Press

  The current screaming and gnashing of teeth over red light cameras and police checkpoints in Montgomery raise an entirely more pressing issue: When did our collective view on crime shift so drastically that we completely disregard illegal behavior and instead nitpick how someone is busted for such behavior?

  Take the City of Montgomery’s new practice of utilizing red light cameras at major intersections: Despite the fact that there is clear photographic evidence of offenders running red lights - and in the process, breaking the law, being reckless and endangering other motorists and even pedestrians - many citizens of the Capital City inexplicably think it’s a greater issue that the ticket is being issued by a clerk wielding computer software  and reviewing the captured images instead of an actual uniformed officer brandishing a radar gun--the fact that the offenders have broken the law seems entirely irrelevant to the detractors of this new program. Granted, there are a few cases in which the offender is driving a vehicle registered in someone else’s name, but the ticket in such a scenario can easily be appealed… though quite frankly, that’s simply a risk you take whenever you allow someone else to drive your car.

  So when did the method of catching someone breaking a law become more important than the law-breaking act itself?

  Police checkpoints around Montgomery are also prompting a mass chorus of whining. Many argue that the Montgomery Police Department shouldn’t be forcing people to stop who aren’t visibly engaging in some form of illegal behavior as they‘re driving. A typical checkpoint though only involves the officer checking the driver’s license and possibly the individual’s vehicle insurance. Both items are required by state law, so where is the justifiable complaint by motorists? Since the state mandates the carrying of both items when operating a motor vehicle, the MPD has every right to verify that we have these items. How else are the police expected to enforce such laws?

  And there have been no credible reports of officers ransacking someone’s vehicle or dragging them out and patting them down without reasonable cause. At worst, it’s a 60-second delay for motorists, roughly the same amount of time it takes to walk to your mailbox and retrieve your mail. The program, however, snags those driving without a license or on a suspended license, drug traffickers, those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and even those who are driving without insurance. So again, when did the method of busting someone breaking the law become more important than breaking the law itself?

  When did our morality and sense of justice become so twisted and lacking responsibility that we routinely find ways to excuse criminal behavior and instead nitpick how a crime is observed or dealt with?

  Never mind that I sped through a red light and nearly killed someone. An officer didn’t observe it! A machine did! And that machine wasn’t wearing a badge or even eating doughnuts!

  Never mind that I was transporting a trunk-load of cocaine, drunk off my ass, and have no license or insurance. I had to go through a checkpoint! I didn’t actually get pulled over for a good reason! They only found my stash and caught me when I couldn’t walk a straight line and had white powder all over my nose! It’s not fair!

  The Montgomery Police Department should be praised for these recent efforts. Even if you hold the jaded, suspicious view that red light cameras are only in place as a revenue-creating measure, you can’t deny that since the installation of the devices at various intersections, red-light running has decreased at those intersections, potentially saving lives and preventing accidents. And how do the citizens of Montgomery think many public safety programs are paid for? The issuance of tickets and fines for various offenses has a direct bearing on whether officers are readily available to respond to our emergency calls and to offer various forms of assistance to us as citizens of Montgomery. Would you rather our government raise our local taxes to pay for public safety and crime-prevention programs?

  And avoiding getting smacked with a fine for running a red light couldn’t be simpler: Stop when the light is red. We can even put it in Sesame Street terms for those of you confused by the confused - sing along with me: “Green means go, red means stop… green means go, red means stop.” Got it? Catchy, right?

  And even if you buy the argument that check points are being utilized as revenue-enhancing measures as well, you can’t deny that more DUI offenders, drug traffickers, those driving without a license or on a suspended license, and those without insurance are being caught than would without the use of the check points. In neither case - red light cameras or checkpoints - are citizens’ rights being denied or infringed upon.

  Perhaps some of those individuals who start puffing themselves up and rattling on mindlessly about liberty, the Constitution and Big Brother would feel much differently if a checkpoint snagged a drunk driver who left on the road may have struck and killed a member of their family or stopped a shipment of narcotics from entering their neighborhood and contributing to crime in their area. Or if someone popped for running a red light through the use of the cameras thought twice about doing it again, potentially saving the life of one of the naysayer’ loved ones or even themselves.

  So why are so many citizens grumbling and mumbling about the technology in use or how somehow is busted for breaking a law yet showing no concern or outrage that so many of our fellow citizens are so freely and flagrantly breaking these laws and endangering innocent citizens’ lives and property? Truly, which is more important, preserving lives and curbing crime or nit-picking the mere method or manner by which law-breakers are caught?

  About the author: Joseph O. Patton is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Capital City Free Press.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the Me Generation. All people care about are their own situational possibilities and when someone enforces things upon them that causes interference with their way of life it's wrong.

    When laws are enforced on others that doesn't interfere it's perfectly fine.

    We have enforced the idea of individual so much in our society that even the basic ideas of right and wrong shift drastically depending on the subject(s).