There was a fascinating commentary in the New York Times this week called, “To Stop Crime, Hand Over Cash,” by Devone Boggan. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/opinion/sunday/to-stop-crime-hand-over-cash.html?ref=opinion&_r=0 The author thinks we should pay criminals to stop murder.
I’ve worked in the criminal justice system for over thirty years. Crime prevention has taken many turns—usually in two ways:
1. More police, more enforcement
2. More money poured into high crime areas in the form of jobs, neighborhood centers, and sports programs.
Has any of this worked?
The FBI statistics show that over-all crime rates are down, but no research can explain exactly why. And in some cities, crime rates are higher than ever. To my knowledge, thousands of smart people have tried to figure out how to reduce crime. It took an epidemiologist to come up with a new twist: let’s pay criminals to stop murder. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it seems to have worked in Richmond, California. The plan offered to pay criminals to stop murder. Specifically, if the criminals stayed out of trouble, didn’t kill anyone, and came to meetings with mentors for six months, they’d get $1,000 a month for nine months.
It’s working. There are three keys to this success:
1. Trust. The law enforcement identified 17 of the worst offenders who were probably causing most of the the murders. If these people could be convinced to change—for money—that would go a long way to getting lower level criminals to cooperate also.
2. Community intervention. Several people were hired to approach the 17 king pins. These community people were critical to gaining trust, especially when they told the criminals they would get pay to stop murders.
3. Money. The authorities followed through and paid the money.
Some readers ask the obvious: is this crazy that we’re paying money to criminals? Shouldn’t we be putting them in jail? The cost of fighting crime is far more than the money used to pay criminals to stop murder. It’s estimated that a homicide costs the taxpayers about $400,000 for the cops, courts, lawyers, juries, judges, and prisons.
The usual response to higher crime rates has been more police and more incarceration—which doesn’t seem to work according to the research.
So, what do you think about this radical plan to pay criminals to stop murder?