Crime MattersCommentary by Pete du Pont
January 29, 1997
Host intro: A recent Wall Street Journal opinion poll finds that 57 percent of the public ranks crime at the top of its concerns, despite the fact that crime statistics are down. Commentator Pete du Pont thinks he knows why.
If crime is going down, why does it still weigh so heavily on people's minds?
After all, polls have shown for years that people have faith in their local police force. The problem is, they have little in the criminal justice system. That's not a contradiction. The beat cop, the criminal investigator, do good jobs. But then "the system" takes over. The problem with the system goes back four or five decades, to a time when the liberal elite decided -- on your behalf, without asking -- that the whole point of the criminal justice system wasn't to punish the criminal. Punishment they implied, is unenlightened, primitive and counterproductive. Instead, wrongdoers should be helped.
So, a truth-driven justice process was changed into a never-never land of prisoner privilege, evidence exclusion, appeals, delays and reversals that make it expensive to arrest, convict and punish the guilty. Expensive and often unreliable.
In a word, morality lost.
But moral condemnation is what punishment is all about. Punishment doesn't just inconvenience the offender. It condemns his acts as morally wrong, and reaffirms society's values.
Until the criminal justice system again realizes its true mission, people will worry about crime, whatever consoling news the statistics report.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you next time.
Host outro: The White House thinks it's the object of a media conspiracy. Their explanation makes Pete du Pont dizzy....tomorrow.