Nacel Open Door

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How can the average citizen stop crime?

In the city where I live in the police is quite corrupt and many crimes go unpunished. Their response time is also terrible. As a result I began to think that the answer to crime and drug dealing does not lie within our government, but among us, the citizens. So I would like to know, do you know of any way for the average citizen to stop (or help stop) crime?

It doesn't matter if it's at the local, state or national level or if you suggest individual or collective acts, any suggestions will help. Thank you in advance.

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    Dec 5 2013: Here is one approach:
    • Dec 5 2013: I've heard about that approach but I had completely forgotten about it. Thank you! My only doubt about it is if it can be applied to a whole city instead of just a neighbourhood. Here there are some neighbourhoods you don't want to get into, of course, but the criminal acts don't necessarily happen within them. They may take place in plain daylight or at midnight, in the city centre or when you are parking your car at home. I guess it's worth further research...
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        Dec 5 2013: When you asked what citizens could do, I didn't realize you were interested only in citywide initiatives.

        Still I see no reason that a program could not be initiated in which groups of people focus on particular neighborhoods.
        • Dec 6 2013: Oh, no, I was indeed interested in any kind of method, not just citywide ones. I was only wondering. As you say the program could be initiated in neighbourhoods so as to cover the whole city eventually, regardless of how affected they are by crime. It is certainly an idea worth having in mind.
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      Dec 5 2013: carolyn, I avoid becoming friends with even minor criminals because I'm afraid that they will just exploit or abuse me in some way.
      • Dec 5 2013: I think Carolyn is talking more about prevention here. Connecting with someone that is hurting and helping them before they resort to crime (correct me if I'm wrong here Carolyn).

        Regarding your fears, well, they are well funded. Still, it may be a partial solution to trust at least minor criminals a little bit to see if they can make a change (and encouraging them to make that change happen too, of course).
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          Dec 5 2013: I guess a person should do what comes naturally? For me it just doesn't come naturally, at the moment, to associate with bad people. There are enough good people to associate with. Maybe in time I will change.
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          Dec 6 2013: well, c, would you be friends with someone you really didn't want to be friends with just to save them from drifting into committing crimes? They would become your "project"?
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      Dec 6 2013: I understand now. When Rodrigo asked, I was visualizing violent crime. I don't think of the homeless, drag queens, prostitutes, and certainly not bikers as being particularly prone to serious crime., But you are right that Rodrigo asked his question more generally.
      • Dec 6 2013: Although I did not specify what type of crime I was talking about I was thinking about violent crime when I wrote it too. But Carolyn here has opened my mind to think of other forms of crime that may also trigger violent behaviour in the future and are often times dwarfed by that same violent crime . So Carolyn, since you have already told us that your lifestyle may not suit everyone, what is there that can be done by ordinary people to support people like you? Your job is truly admirable, by the way, not many people would do that even if they had the guts to.
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    Dec 6 2013: Rodrigo, First of all you know your city of 1,242,000 much better than I do. Since Santa Fe providence abuts the capital providence let me guess ... a lot of drug traffic and growth occurs in your providence. These are very influential and dangerous people. That there is some form of corruption is very believable. That delays are frequent would lend me to believe that assurances are being made that no "toes" are being stepped on. As you suggest vigilante justice may be the answer ... however I urge you to think this through. First it is against the law ... second it would pit you against the authorities ... and third it would be open season for all involved for the drug lords if it in any way interfered with their enterprise. If that happened the response time would go to zero from the authorities. I cannot provide you with a easy quick answer because there is none ... however I do know that you cannot break the law to enforce the law.

    The legal process is slow and will require support of elected officials to weed out the police offenders ... however, to do this a new deal will be struck with the drug lords ... to move their operations so as to not impact the locals. Over time this can be done. With the drug dealers outside of the city the response times will get better and better.

    The best advice I can offer is that the process is slow and to be very careful. People who have power and egos do not like to have their apple carts turned over ... they tend to get even.
    • Dec 6 2013: You have proposed quite realistic concerns Robert. I haven't actually thought about these issues before, but here are some of my conclusions after thinking a bit about them:

      -Vigilante justice is certainly against the law and I agree with you: it is not an option. Perhaps a different approach is possible. I've seen a few neighbourhoods where some signs have been posted that say: "Watch out. Neighbours on the look out." meaning that they each watch their back. Maybe this concept could be applied to more neighbourhoods, where citizens are ready to call the police in case something happens. Of course, cooperation from the police would be necessary.

      -It's nearly impossible to get anything done without the support of the authorities, as you say. Therefore whatever solution is drafted, it mustn't interfere with them. A change of authorities will have to take place slowly, discretely and internally.

      -Lastly, it's for sure that the druglords will target whoever tries to shake their business. However, what can they do if the movement has no real leader? Just a collective soul? I heard of a neighbourhood that gathered together and completely dismantled a drug "bunker" (that's how they are called here) all on their own after waiting for a response from the police for months. They simply went there and started tearing it down with hammers.

      I would like to know what you think of these three conclusions. Oh, and thank you, you added a lot to the conversation!
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        Dec 7 2013: It really all boils down to a change in the administration and the police. Don't sell the drug people short. They know more than you think ... they have eyes and ears everywhere.

        They do not care if the movement has a leader or not ... they would take someone at random ... torture, question, and kill him or the whole family as a lesson to everyone.

        I repeat do not underestimate them.

        Do some research and find out if there are any areas that have been reclaimed from corruption and or drug dealers .... how ... results .... any follow up stories.

        As in all things ... do your homework ...

        Be well. Bob.
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    Dec 8 2013: Dan Ariely has a TED Talk where he talks about the "Honest Truth About Dishonesty."
    That truth is that we all cheat a little but that little amounts to a great deal, more than any larger crimes
    So if we were all just a little more honest. everything will be collectively better.
  • Dec 7 2013: Rodrigo, I am sorry to hear about your friend. That is terrible. I am not familiar with crime committed in Argentina, but I did study criminology here in the US. Perhaps, I can help shed some light on some of the issues you've raised.
    First off, I do not recommend befriending known criminals for just the reasons cited. Many criminals are highly manipulative individuals AND most crime is actually perpetrated against people by people they know. In my opinion, you would be increasing your risk to be a victim of crime, rather than reducing it.
    Crime is not a simple subject. One assault is not the same as another. For example, a person attacking a family member is a very different kind of crime than a person assaulting a complete stranger for no reason. Murder, despite common knowledge, actually has one of the lowest recidivism rates of all classes of crime. Only a very small percentage of murderers will commit another murder. Those that do are usually very dangerous people like serial killers or gang members.
    All that being said, I am not sure what particular kind of crimes you are looking to deter. But generally speaking, communities can deter crime by creating community watches, by keeping their neighborhood clean and maintained, and by reducing attractive targets. Studies have found that crime occurs in neighborhoods that are poorly maintained where there is an impression that people don't care about their community. Likewise, abandoned buildings, poor lighting, shrubbery blocking the view of windows or doors, etc, are all things that attract criminal activity.
    Cameras, signs about community watches, people who actually go out together and patrol, and even getting to know your neighbors so you know when something is out of the ordinary. All those things can help. I think it is admirable that you are trying to find solutions, but do be careful. Especially, if the crime is related to drug trafficking.
  • Dec 7 2013: Make it a TV game where crimes are captured on video and rewards are given for people who are caught. Bonuses given for government officials, for congress or above throw in a family trip to the Bahamas paid directly out of their pension which is probably in the Bahamas also.
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      Dec 6 2013: Hi, Carolyn. Who are the "they" or "them" to whom you refer when you write you attempt to be a good role model for "them" or that what you model conflicts with "their" experience? You mention genocide, rape and so forth.

      That you are thoughtful, patient, and forgiving, I understand but I do not understand the setting or context to which you are referring in the passage. These practices (of being thoughtful and kind and so forth) in daily life are typically what I would call safe and indeed common among people.

      Do you work with people in prisons?
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    Dec 5 2013: If you live in a democratic country, the police should be held accountable. Protests, media campaigns and the involvement of influential social voices would go a long way.
    But as they say, "charity begins at home". Since criminals didnt fall from Mars or Venus, families should bring up their children in a way that would make them fit in the society as responsible individuals.
    Parents teach a lot by the way they relate with each other at home. The police, being corrupt, is also a reflection of the society.

    If crime is to be a thing of the past, it would take a holistic approach by all stakeholders.
    • Dec 5 2013: You are right about that. The problem is that an irresponsible parent cannot teach responsibility to a kid, and the same applies to any other virtue. So there is no way for a parent to teach something he or she has never known which is the case of many individuals here. I guess the next question would be: how do we teach responsibility to an adult?
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    Dec 5 2013: what are the crimes you are talking about? How do you know they are crimes, are you a student of the law? What makes you sure they go unpunished?

    If you see what you think is a crime, and you know or have a suspicion that it has gone unpunished, possibly you should go to a law library and research whether it really is a crime or not.
    • Dec 5 2013: Any type of crime. Pickpocketing here happens a lot and it certainly is punishable by law but the police is never around to stop it. If you want a more clear example, a friend of mine was stabbed to death a few days ago and the perpetrator, who is a minor, is already out with his parents, who were not punished either. A security camera confirms this.

      Those two crimes used to be punished as is dictated by our law (and they didn't use to happen almost at all), so I guess there is no need for me to check in a law library since as far as I know our law hasn't changed in that aspect.
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        Dec 5 2013: Rodrigo, what is your evidence that pickpocketing happens a lot? Is it just something you hear people say, you can't always believe what people say?

        To me it makes sense that the police aren't around to stop a pickpocket. If a pickpocket sees a policeman, he's not going to pickpocket at that time, he's going to wait until the policeman is gone?

        I am sorry about your friend. Perhaps the person who stabbed him is out on bail? Here in the U.S., if you have been arrested for a crime and are being held awaiting a trial, you can pay a certain amount of money to the court and be free while you are waiting for trial. If you show up for the trial, you get the bail money back. If you flee, the court gets to keep the money.

        I still say you should check laws, you always have more power if you know the laws. It will help you understand the different offenses, you will be able to see which are the more serious and how much punishment your country's system believes they deserve. Who knows, you might get interested and become a lawyer, or a policeman, or a government leader.
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        Dec 5 2013: just as an example, Rodrigo, I wonder which is considered a worse crime in Argentina, pickpocketing, or walking into someone's house through an open door and stealing something?
        • Dec 6 2013: I see your point, and I would indeed do well in checking the laws. Here's a source you can trust regarding crime in Argentina, I guess you could call it my "evidence":

          Regarding my friend, no, the perpetrator is not out on bail (no money involved). He has been returned to his parents although the judicial authorities have said he is still under their disposal until the investigation is complete and he is found non-guilty.
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        Dec 6 2013: Well, that's an interesting source, Rodrigo. When I went to that source, I tried to see if it would give me a report on the United States (I know, it's an American website), but it would not. I wanted to see how it would describe the one country that I really know, the one where I live, and compare the description to my personal experience.

        Sometimes the reputation a place has might not cohere with your experience. For example, I lived in an area called Westlake, in Los Angeles, for about ten years. It is about a mile west of downtown Los Angeles. It is an area that is about 95% Hispanic (I myself am white), with a very large percentage of "illegal immigrants." People who haven't lived there would tell you it is a very rough area, with a great deal of crime. My experience was different, I found there was some petty crime, particularly graffiti, but generally I felt pretty safe there, and was not the victim of crime. So I sometimes don't trust the reputation a place has.

        One way I stayed safe in Westlake was I hardly ever went out at night, in fact that is my lifestyle, I go to bed very early, about 6 PM, and rise very early, 3AM. Nighttime is the most dangerous and weirdest. Was your friend killed at night?

        So there is camera footage of this person killing your friend? Have you actually seen this footage, perhaps it doesn't show what you think it does? Why would he be found non-guilty if there is film of him committing the crime?

        On the report you linked, I noticed there is less crime in the rural areas of Argentina. What do you think about moving to the country for a less crimeful life, I think country living is the best. Let the city folks tear each other to shreds while you enjoy fresh milk and fine hay?

        In America I believe the police work closely with attorneys, in fact I believe many police stations have an attorney who has an office right within the station.......
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        Dec 6 2013: and this way the police stay very informed on the law, and they can use their knowledge of the law as they fight crime, they can make sure they are staying within the law and upholding the law. I wonder if this is the case in Argentina, perhaps you can find out, and, if it is not the case, push for some change?

        Since I walk a lot, I have been assaulted a few times on the streets of America. One time, after I was assaulted, I read a book on how to be safe on the street. One thing they recommended is, when you are walking, to occasionally do a 180-degree turn to see what is going on behind you and around you. I follow this advice, and I find it helps me feel safer on the street.

        Rodrigo, I have heard that police in United States make a good salary, and that helps account for why our police are relatively uncorrupt. Maybe you should look into how Argentinean police are paid, and compare it to other countries. If you find they are low paid, perhaps you could push for their pay to be increased. But I don't know how that works, if police in the U.S. are well-paid, you would think other countries could pay their police well and would already be doing it, if they are not doing it one would wonder why?
        • Dec 7 2013: I understand exactly what you mean. A few days ago a friend of mine told me she couldn't believe I went back and forth through a certain street with my laptop and that nothing ever happened to me. I never felt unsafe nor have I ever seen any type of crime during business hours in that street.

          My friend was indeed murdered at night. The camera footage is not accessible by civilians, according to a local newspaper it's being "analysed". Moving to the countryside is not an option for me, as I'll go to college and it requires that I'm in the city centre for a great part of the day. Classes can sometimes end at 11 pm. I should clarify: night time here is perceived different than in the USA, most people go to sleep at 11 pm and it's normal for dance clubs to close at 5 in the morning. Night time is very lively here in the city but it's also more dangerous, you don't want to be alone at any given time.

          As far as I know, attorneys don't work with the police here, only prosecutors do and they only show up if a crime occurs and they are needed. The police here don't earn much, nor is their training deep: they barely have self-defence classes and the training lasts about 2 years. They are given equipment but they have to pay for that equipment if it gets stolen, lost or if it's used (police officers buy their own bullets). The police is managed by the state, which doesn't receive much money from the national government (it's rumoured that it's due to political differences despite there being a law that demands a certain amount) so I guess an increase in their salary cannot happen.
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        Dec 7 2013: Yeah, it is a little hard for me to have this conversation with you at a distance, Rodrigo, because I don't live there to even see what the situation is. Possibly you should be having this conversation with the people around you, your family and friends, getting their opinions and trading ideas, since they and you really know the situation.

        Even if it is the trend to go out at night, I would still encourage you to avoid it. You know what they say, if the majority of people walked off a cliff and fell to their death, would you follow them just to be part of the crowd? Going to bed early and rising early is healthy and positive. If noone ever went out at night, it would reduce crime, wouldn't it, and make for a healthier atmosphere?

        Now did you say the film definitely shows a particular person killing your friend? And yet the person will be found "not guilty"? How does that work, is it some kind of political thing, or..........?

        What are you studying at college? How important is it to you? I am 53, I have had many kinds of life experience. I have studied at the finest universities, and have a degree from Stanford, one of the best. But I really do believe the best life is the country life. It is wholesome, and, also, it is interesting, succeeding in agriculture is challenging and intellectually stimulating, would you agree? Do you like to eat, and are you interested in food, if so this might draw you to agriculture. You actually can go to school in agriculture, there are things called "agricultural colleges."

        Rodrigo, I'm going to find out more about how attorneys work with the police here. I had made the statement that some police stations have attorneys working right at the station, but the statement was based on only hearing this as a rumor, and only about one station. I would think attorneys would have to work with the police because the law does change, and the police have to stay abreast of the changes.
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        Dec 7 2013: Now you're saying that political differences are causing the police not to get paid as much? What are these "political differences," and what is the connection to officer pay?

        Possibly, Rodrigo, you should be happy that you don't have a big drug cartel problem in Argentina. Living in southern California, we get a lot of news from Mexico, and it seems they are having real problems with cartels. Part of the blame falls to the United States, as our illegal narcotic demand fuels illicit production in Mexico.