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Property crime in the hood

Preface: I subscribe to the Next Door app for my neighborhood in Spokane, WA.  The Comstock Park neighborhood is one of the more desirable neighborhoods in Spokane.  Twenty years ago, when my wife and I got together, we pooled the equity we held in our respective homes just to come up with a downpayment large enough to get into a rambling rancher we bought back then.  It’s appraised value has increased 78% since we bought it.  Not that much by California standards, but gigantic in steady eddy Spokane’s housing market.

Normally, our Next Door email bulletins deal with lost pets, finding lawn work for a teenager, weighing in on school board or parks board proposals that will affect our neighborhood.  Lately, my Next Door app notices have been dominated by reports of car and garage break-ins, lots of them.  We are getting nervous and frustrated with the apparent lack of increased policing.  Several neighbors report their cars being broken into several times.

Here was my response to one of those nervous neighbors who is new to the area:

Property crime is up everywhere in the city, not just Comstock. The jail is mostly full of violent criminals, so there’s no where to put theives when they do catch them. It’s a much bigger problem than law enforcement can address, even if they and we are not ready to admit it.

We are dealing now with third generation criminals who have never known any other way of living. Grandpa was an alcoholic or a drug addict and a thief, dad was the same, and now them. It’s the only way they know how to survive. Breaking that cycle of poverty and crime, will take time and a lot more than just more law enforcement. We could go broke trying to hire enough cops to catch them all or to build and staff enough prisons to hold them all.  Overcrowding is already at crisis levels in the our county.

For instance, just yesterday, a prisoner was killed in Spokane County Jail in a cell housing 10 (TEN) prisoners. Is building more jails really the answer? Can we actually afford that?

As evidenced by the fact that we own a home in this neighborhood, we have managed to climb into and stay in the middle class. It’s up to us who have the resources and connnections to hold some sway in our political system to have a serious discussion right now about how to keep the next generation of impoverished predators amongst us from growing up into a criminal lifestyle.

It will call for more than hiring more cops, building more prisons or buying more burglar alarms. We need to find a way for these fellow citizens to climb up and out of poverty as youngsters. That will take some political will to change a lot of the way we do things now.

Until I retired I often rode the North Monroe bus to my job. Take that ride and just eavesdrop on some of the conversations. Take a good look out the window at some of the neighborhoods you cruise through on that bus. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods. I notice that there are clearly two or more families living in many of these sweltering, run-down homes.  You see them spilling out onto their front porches with their electric fans trying to make it through anothe 90-degree day.

In the meantime, by all means, do what you can to protect your property. You worked hard to have what you have. I know I did. But let’s also understand that it took decades of anger-driven legislation, frustration and skepticism about social programs for Spokane to get to this state of affairs. It may take another decade or two of smart public policy to move away from it.

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