Crime without punishment

Suppose the authorities gave up on catching thieves, so that perpetrators of robberies would almost never be apprehended or punished.  A kind of moral inversion would take place:  robbery would become an acceptable way to earn a living, and law-abiding citizens would walk in fear in their own neighborhoods.

Such a perverse moral environment brings to mind the broken countries of Africa and Latin America, or the meaner streets of Chicago.  But we’re talking about Olso, Norway, where 99 percent of all robberies go unsolved.  The problem is getting worse by the day:

And the wave of robberies is increasing rapidly. Yesterday 33 people were the victims of serious crimes in Oslo. In the first three months of 2008, serious robberies in public places have increased by 10 percent.

The government blames “begging and prostitution” by East European immigrants, and politicians are now pondering whether “aggressive” prostitution should be banned.  Nothing is said about the passive kind, and one presumes Olso is a city in which an Eliot Spitzer could romp without offending even his own high standards of behavior, never mind anyone else’s.  Nor is an explanation offered for the rather meager record of success by the city’s law enforcement.

Let’s recall the NYT’s noise about the large number of convicts in American prisons, in which criminologists from other “industrialized countries,” codeword for European, are said to be “appalled” by our barbaric sentencing practices.  No doubt, they are entitled to their judgment.  But what American city would tolerate a 99 percent rate of law enforcement failure?  What politician would survive such a crime wave?  The citizenry would be, quite literally, up in arms.

And from a strictly moral perspective, which is preferable:  criminals in prison, or enjoying a good living at their trade?  (Via Brussels Journal)

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