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Why Are So Many Violent Criminals Walking Free?

In 2011, fewer than half of all violent crimes found any resolution. An alarming 59 percent of rape cases and 36.2 percent of murders in the United States are never solved. Why are so many violent criminals walking free? Prof. Alex Kreit suggests that perhaps U.S. police forces have their priorities out of order.

We would save $41.3 billion every year by ending the war on drugs. Prof. Kreit argues that those resources could be better used trying to solve violent crimes and prosecute criminals who leave victims in their wake. Millions of people who are under correctional supervision in the United States never restrained, assaulted, killed, or abused another person but are in prison for simple possession of a drug. Despite all of the money and time spent, it has never been easier to buy drugs.

Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs for personal use 12 years ago, offers an alternative that is working. Drug use in Portugal has dropped, along with other measures, like the number of drug-related HIV cases and drug use among children. We should be directing more resources to investigating murders and rapes—not drug use. Whatever your stance on the legal status of drugs, shouldn’t we make a guarantee to help victims first? Prof. Kreit asks, “Who are the real victims of the government’s war on drugs?”

Children of the Drug War [website]: 'Children of the Drug War' is a unique collection of original essays that investigates the impacts of the war on drugs on children, young people and their families


What You Should Know about Drug Prohibition (video): Professor Angela Dills argues that drug prohibition not only generates more violence and increases the cost of law enforcement, but also distracts law enforcement and puts citizens at greater risk of crime


5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results [article]: This Scientific American article reviews Portugal’s decriminalization policy concludes that focusing on treatment and prevention has decreased the number of drug-related deaths and infections


The Drug War: What Is It Good For? [article]: Art Carden details some of the tolls the war on drugs takes on the lives and liberties of Americans


The Drug Policy Roulette [article]: This National Affairs  article provides a defense of the War on Drugs and maintains a skeptical outlook on the prospect of drug legalization


Why Are So Many Violent Criminals Walking Free?

Fifty-nine percent of rape cases and 36.2 percent of murders in the United States are never solved. In 2011, less than half of all violent crimes found any resolution. It sort of makes you wonder, why are so many violent criminals walking free?

I’m Alex Kreit, professor of criminal law. To start, let’s take a look at New York City. Since Michael Bloomberg has been mayor, police have spent 1 million man hours working 440,000 arrests for—get this—marijuana possession. That’s a lot of police busting parties instead of tracking down violent criminals.

This goes beyond any one city or state. Nationwide, we would save $41.3 billion every year by ending the war on drugs. That’s tens of millions of man hours in investigation, office work, and court appearances for drug cases. We’re choosing to direct these law enforcement resources to crimes other than rapes and murders, only to end up arresting and incarcerating large numbers of nonviolent offenders.

Worse yet, the war on drugs doesn’t even work. In the United States, 7 million people are under correctional supervision, many for drug-related charges. Eighty-one percent of all drug arrests are for simple possession. That’s millions of people in the system who never restrained, assaulted, killed, or abused another person. And despite the money and time spent, it’s never been easier to buy drugs.

Compare that to Portugal, which decriminalized the personal use of all drugs 12 years ago. Since then, there’s evidence that their criminal justice system has become leaner and more efficient. They chose to treat addiction as an illness, not a crime, and to make a meaningful distinction between violent and nonviolent offenders. This has also, unsurprisingly, helped those most vulnerable to the harms of controlled substances by decreasing their use among children and lowering the number of new HIV infections.

Who in our society is in pain, and how can we help them? We can direct more resources to prosecute violent offenders, actual criminals who leave behind victims and survivors. We can ensure every single victim of assault or sexual violence a full and credible investigation of their claims.

Even if we disagree on the legal status of drugs, can’t we make that guarantee to victims first? We should ask ourselves, who are the real victims of the government war on drugs?

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21 Comments

  1. Matt Wavle

    The victims of unsolved violent crimes are the real victims of the misappropriation of the scarce resources in law enforcement.  Let’s focus on crimes where the perpetrator and the victim are not the same person.

  2. agavin2342

    Really interesting video, we need to end domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. It starts with the awareness, the police need to keep doing what they do best, and stop the excuses. No more. 

  3. Mandie Franks

    I, for a project, have to create a public good, for profit, in the private sector. Watching this video gave me the idea to just create a private task force that can simply focus on serious crimes and help those families get the peace they need. Videos like this, and my Professor’s assignment make me wonder what else the free market can take on to make everyone’s lives better.

  4. andrei.roibu

    Now, this is a problem that we have in Romania, as well. Small time crooks get thrown in prisons and big criminals and corrupts get away easily. Now, the video suggest the right way to deal with these kind of problems, and, as a good friend of mine say: STOP REACTING and START ACTING. Why try to punish small time criminals when you can work to prevent such crimes, and why consume logistical resources on hunting down small time fish when you can use those resources for catching the bigger sharks? Probably because some sharks, if not all, have a political alibi… 

  5. Ryan Boyd

    The entire War on Drugs never made too much sense to me. After reading Michael Huemer’s America’s Unjust Drug War, I’ve been solidly against it. We have the right to our own bodies and what goes in and out of them, and making drugs illegal essentially doesn’t fix the problems in society. Additionally there is the problem with the black market and the fact that contraband will continue to trade hands despite laws saying it shouldn’t. Ultimately, it seems like a great deal of waste for such a small problem.

  6. mackenzietanquary

    This is so true! It’s stupid to spend so many hours and so much money on criminals who aren’t even real criminals! We should be focusing on the more violent crimes and strive to be like Portugal!

  7. AnCapDalek

    There are no victims when you smoke a bowl of weed and there is no victims when you take a hit of DMT. But there are victims that are raped and killed because of the drug war and the violence of the black market…

  8. Damian Robinson

    This video really effected me.

    Hopefully sometime soon the powers that be will realize that this drug policies do more harm than good.
  9. minaobe

    I like how the narrator said, "the GOVERNMENT’S war on drugs", because it seems to me that the gov’t is against marijuana more than the people are. I thought the people were supposed to be the gov’t!

  10. minaobe

    The people who are powers were smart enough to get themselves into positions of power, they must know what the policies do. But the problem is that many of the people in power, just want power.

  11. Jeremy Harding

    You might be interested in this then:

    The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts

    Rothbard goes into some detail here about the greater level of effectiveness inherent in private policing. If we privatized the police force, they’d have to be accountable to those that pay the bills, and wouldn’t be able to afford bad policies like this.
  12. rlspann89

    Here are some good statistics with of an actual case study in a Western country. This is better fuel for a debate than much of the videos I have seen on the subject.

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