Property crime epidemic in Louisiana

Expert: "You cannot arrest your way out of this."

Thomas Perumean
January 19, 2020 - 11:03 am
Property crime epidemic in Louisiana

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Property crime, whether its breaking into cars, burglarizing homes, auto theft, or just plain stealing is at epidemic proportions in Louisiana and it is not getting better.  

A new report finds Louisiana leads the nation in property crimes and four of the top ten cities for property crimes are in the state of Louisiana (and New Orleans is not in the top ten!)

Dr. Peter Scharf is a criminologist with LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans and he's very straightforward about the problem.  "We don't have a property crime problem, we have a kid problem," Scharf says bluntly.  

"We have a value problem," Scharf says.  "We have a group of young people who think its right to break into your car, and take your cell phone, take your gun, take your money and take your jewelry."  

When asked if the solution is locked doors, louder car alarms, and better security systems, Scharf dismisses this thinking by example:  "Technology will only go so far," Scharf explains.  "As long as there's a will to steal stuff, they'll find a way."  

He brings the point right back to what's driving property crime, "We got to get a hold of these kids, we've got to educate them.  When kids get into these chronic patterns, we don't know what to do with them." 

Scharf says, "You cannot arrest your way out of an epidemic." 

He goes on to state, "Our youth studies system is broke, and the Office of Juvenile Justice is broke."  Scharf says when it comes to juveniles and crime, police "come after the problem has happened."

"We've got to get smarter on crime, not dumber," Scharf proclaims.  

"We have not done a good job in terms of value education.  In terms of monitoring kids, and in terms of guiding them."  Scharf continues, "We have parents that are either not there or absorbed in other things and not doing a good job raising their kids."

Scharf says schools are afraid of value education, so kids are like rudderless ships.  "No one's asked them 'what's right or wrong?' and 'why should you respect some else's property?" 

Scharf says cultural change is only way to stop property crime, "Until we turn around our family systems, our school systems, and our community systems, we're going to have this excessive rate of crime."

According to Scharf, the unintended consequence of property crime is it's connection to violent crime through guns and drugs.  "The gun that gets stolen is going to end up on the street through the secondary gun market and used in violent crimes.  So there is a linkage." 

And he says, "Most of the people committing property crimes are doing so to get money for drugs.  If you have a $300-to-$500 dollar-a-day opioid addiction, you're not going to work, you're going to steal to get that money."

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