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A Strategy for Fighting Crime in the Twin Cities

An effective crime-fighting program in the Twin Cities should consist of prevention/ treatment and punishment. One would assume that the first option would be more cost effective than the second.

Prevention:

Crime is the result of a relatively small number of individuals whose names are known to the police. Therefore, target the crime-prevention program to these known individuals.

Information gathering

(a) When persons are arrested for crime, have each talk to an interviewer to see why they engaged in criminal acts and what it would take for them to choose alternatives. Say, frankly, that we are looking for ways to reduce crime. What would your (the arrested person’s) thoughts be on what the community could do to reduce crime?

(b) Put the same questions to persons now serving sentences in Minnesota’s correctional facilities.

(c) Develop dossiers on all persons who have been arrested for or convicted of crime. Assign a case worker (like a parole officer) who would be responsible for keeping in touch with these persons and being a personal counselor. Try to find programs that would match what the person said needed to be done to reduce crime.

Possible programs

(a) Maintain drop-in centers in the city where these individuals would be specifically welcome. Have recreational facilities - ping-pong tables, television sets, etc. Also, have staff persons who would develop programs, preferably ones which the participants requested. The staffers would have contacts for personal counseling, if needed. Hire ex-inmates of prisons as counselors.

(b) Develop a job-training and temp-service program. There is a need for skilled workers who know plumbing, electrical work, sheet rocking, apartment cleaning, and other services for rental properties around the city. Train individuals in these skills. Assign each to a “temp agency” that would find jobs requiring the skills.

(c) Develop an apartment referral service. The drop-in service would work through Housing/Link to find rental opportunities. Each person referred would have a case worker to whom the landlord could turn if problems arose. The city would not retaliate against landlords for persons enrolled in this program.

(d) Sponsor athletic contests and competitions and award prizes to the winners. Develop school courses and award mini-certificates - maybe on the basis of having completed one or two courses. Give each participant a basis of personal pride.

(e) Have public theaters or entertainment venues open to amateur participation. Encourage people to sing or dance, do stand-up comedy, act in skits, etc. Give each participant either recognition or pay for having performed in such a venue.

(f) Open up school gymnasiums for night basketball or volleyball leagues. Sponsor competitions and award prizes to the winners.

Punishment:

(a) Invest in more cameras to catch criminal action on tape. Use as evidence in prosecution.

(b) Persons convicted of crimes should endure public humiliation. Maybe put them on stocks downtown as the Puritans did. Maybe post their pictures and names in public places.

(c) Explore the possibility of encouraging convicted criminals to move out of town - the “one-way ticket” idea.

(d) Propose legislation to take away judges’ discretion to release persons who have repeatedly engaged in criminal activity.

(e) Shorten the sentences of certain elderly sex offenders to free up prison space so that space is available for others. Make sure that convicted criminals serve some time if their crime is serious.

(f) Each prison inmate should have access to educational and counseling programs prior to release.

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