Broken windows & broken cities

The violence in Mexico has been on the upswing since the 1990’s. From horrific news reports to movies like Traffic, the war on drugs in Mexico is a real war. Sadly it’s been one of mostly casualties.

Desperate to resolve the situation, the President of Mexico and many in the US media, horrified at the violence, claim that up to 90% of the guns there come from the US. Some even claim that fully automatic rifles and machine guns (banned or heavly restricted in the US and banned outright in Mexico) come from the US. Not true.

The violence stems from the failure of Mexican institutions to function. The police and military are corrupt. Soldiers and cops desert their posts (taking their weapons with them). Many are on the take or owned outright by the cartels. A whole unit deserted to work for the cartels. Los Zetas was a special forces unit of the Mexican army paid for and trained by the US. They deserted and now are almost a cartel themselves.

The failure of government to enforce the little things makes the bigger crimes possible.

From City Journal comes this tale:

The Truth About Policing and Skid Row:
For 25 years, Skid Row constituted a real-world experiment in the application of homeless-advocate ideology. The squalor that engulfed the 50-block district just east of downtown Los Angeles was the direct outgrowth of advocates’ claims that the homeless should be exempt from the rules of ordinary society. The result was not a reign of peace and love among society’s underdogs, but rather brutal predation and depravity. Occupants of the filthy tents and lean-tos that covered every inch of sidewalk in the area pimped each other out and stole from, stabbed, and occasionally killed one another. Gangs and pushers from South Central and East Los Angeles operated with impunity under cover of the chaos that reigned on the streets.

The intrepid small wholesalers and warehouse owners who tried to keep the area’s once vigorous commercial trade alive removed feces, condoms, and hypodermic needles from the entrance to their properties every morning. Elderly residents of the local Single Room Occupancy hotels were imprisoned in their tiny apartments, terrified to go outside.

A hell on Earth created by social activists causes a spike in murders, drugs and other crime. A fatal shooting happened inside a “clinic” operated by some bleeding hearts. Lax rules and no police presence caused a double homicide.

In 2006, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announced a full-scale attack on Skid Row anarchy. His Safer City Initiative (SCI) would be a demonstration project, he said, for Broken Windows theory, which holds that tolerance for low-level forms of crime and disorder allows more serious crime to fester. When the police started enforcing jaywalking, public urination, and public camping laws, thousands of warrant absconders and violent parolees on the lam lost their refuge. Order gradually returned to the streets.

….

Skid Row’s radical social-service providers and public-housing advocates declared war on the Safer City Initiative. They directed a nonstop barrage of propaganda and lawsuits against the LAPD, claiming that its officers were abusing the poor on behalf of would-be gentrifiers. One of the most vocal critics was Casey Horan, executive director of Lamp Community and a highly public presence in Skid Row politics.

….

Given Horan’s long record of opposition to assertive policing, jaws dropped all over Skid Row on the morning of August 12, 2009, when the Los Angeles Times quoted Horan criticizing the LAPD for not fighting lawless behavior aggressively enough. Horan’s about-face came in a Times exposé of the reckless mismanagement at Lamp that had led to a double murder in April. Horan’s desperate effort to deflect responsibility for the violence in her own facility contradicted everything she had ever said against the Safer City Initiative and blew apart the advocates’ longstanding opposition to proactive policing.

At around 5 am on April 12 (Easter Sunday), a drug dealer and an associate were gunned down while watching TV in a Lamp residence.

And so the article continues.

Broken windows. Drug legalization and gun bans do nothing. Without the will or ability to enforce basic laws and rules, society breaks down. Criminals see a green light to step in. Like Skid Row, the poor sections of Mexico have no police presence, or the police are part of the problem. No functioning government, so criminals can operate in the open.

Now “War Is Boring”‘s Zach Rosenburg puts forth some solutions to the violence in Mexico.

South of the Border, Part Two:
2) Tighten restrictions on weapon purchases through new restrictions or better enforcement. Of course, the cartels can — and do — obtain weaponry elsewhere, but the quality, quantity, and ease of obtaining high-grade weaponry here makes the U.S. a natural arms market.* Denying them the opportunity to use American weapons may substantially raise the risk, and thereby the cost, of purchasing weapons. However, as any politician knows, legislating anything to do with guns invokes the wrath of constituents like little else. Politicians in the American Southwest, who have the greatest interest in stopping violence in Mexico, also have the constituencies least likely to agree with restrictions on weapons. Better enforcement is certainly a possibility, but many of the weapons going to Mexico are legal until they actually cross the border.

3) Tighten restrictions on money to deny cartels their profits. The same principles above apply to this idea. Americans generally do not appreciate restrictions to the free flow of cash, and there are easy ways around the restrictions in place.

4) Allow the shipments of the least violent organizations through while cracking down on the most violent, allowing the more peaceful smugglers a crucial competitive edge. Frankly, I don’t know if this ideal organization exists, but by clearly favoring organizations that do the least damage to the extent that it creates a major price disparity, other groups are given an incentive to do less harm. Alternately, as a certain amount of violence in Mexico is due to smuggling groups fighting each other, allowing one group a monopoly on the best smuggling routes could lead to much less competition.

5) Bankrupt Mexican smugglers by encouraging alternate smuggling routes or production from less harmful places. Take radars down from Caribbean routes; stop patrolling the Canadian border; let more Asian cargoes through without inspection. Allow the competition easier access to American markets, thus denying Mexican cartels a competitive edge. Canadian institutions are likely to be less susceptible to corrupting influences than Mexican institutions; violence in northern Cambodia would not affect as many Americans as in northern Mexico. Will coca grow in Asian climates?

7) Put smuggling organizations in a position where the costs of violence are far outweighed by the benefits of nonviolence.

Back to City Journal and the Safe Streets Initative:

One of the most vocal critics was Casey Horan, executive director of Lamp Community and a highly public presence in Skid Row politics. Lamp is a subsidized housing provider that counsels its mentally ill clients to use drugs “safely”—an approach to drug treatment known as “harm reduction”—rather than requiring abstinence from drugs as a condition of residency. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez has championed Horan, giving Lamp a prominent and always virtuous role in his book and subsequent movie about Skid Row, The Soloist.
….
Horan’s denial that the Lodge sheltered a busy drug trade was childish but hardly surprising. Her explanation for how the murders could have happened in her facility, however, was nothing short of stunning. She had the gall to blame the police for the murders—because they weren’t policing aggressively enough on Skid Row, she said! “It was really the Wild West out there,” Horan sniffed. “We were aware that this is bleeding through our doors.” The “LAPD did not adequately police the area immediately outside the Lodge,” the Times paraphrased her as saying, “despite numerous calls Lamp made to them about crime there.”

No reduction of our freedoms will fix Mexican violence. Only a stable Mexican government will do that. Unless they have the will, gun bans are meaningless. Reducing American demand will help, but the Zetas are going global. Drugs are popular all over the world, we just happen to be a neighbor to a nearly failed state. Even the biggest cities swim in garbage, pollution, crime and poverty run rampant. In El Paso, you can see the lack of basic services from the border. What good would there be in trying to reduce harm when the cartels’ money goes farther in the crushing poverty of the cities they operate in?

Lax enforcement of our laws in not the answer. Yes we need to reduce demand in the states, but that only works if drug use and distribution is a crime. Otherwise addicts have no incentive to get clean. “Harm reduction” does not work. With no teeth, people don’t care about the law. That’s why addicts and dealers shot up the “clinics” in Skid Row. That is why the cartels will walk allover lax enforcement. Worse, terrorists will expolit it to strike at America. Broken Windows indeed.

Just as there was no harm reduction in Skid Row, there will be no harm reduction in Mexico. They need to win this one. The cartels must not be able to run and hide. These are not social clubs, they kill without mercy. We can help the people turn the tide, but Mexicans must fight their own battles. From beating the cartels to fixing the potholes. It’s their battle to win or lose.

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2 Responses to “Broken windows & broken cities”

  1. […] it can be applied to overt prejudice and the treatment of minority groups. Violence stems from failed institutions and lack of civic pride. Democratic order, “fixing broken windows”, could help to contain […]

  2. […] pode ser usada contra a discriminação aberta e na proteção a minorias. A violência nasce da falência das instituições e da falta de orgulho cívico. A ordem democrática, “consertar as janelas quebradas”, pode […]

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