Crime [and Riot] Reduction
It is evening. You are walking home from the local organic food coop to your delightful condo close to downtown in a hip community. From around the corner, a large man appears brandishing a blunt weapon. He demands payment. Do you pay, run, or fight?
Before you answer this question, consider also your cargo. In addition to those organic vegetables, you are also pushing a stroller with your 2-year-old toddler. Now what do you do?
How about wishing you were driving home in a 4 thousand pound SUV from a suburban supermarket towards your gated community?
An Inconvenient Truth: a pedestrian-friendly city is a mugger-friendly city. A modern car is not only a means of high-speed transportation; it is also thousands of pounds of armor protection. When crime goes up, it pays to drive.
An old-school bike friendly grid layout is also burglar-friendly. Sidewalks serve through traffic, including riff-raff checking out places to burgle. Isolated neighborhoods with winding residential roads bristling with cul-de-sacs serve a security function, even if they aren’t part of a gated community. No one has reason to walk on the sidewalks unless they are residents or guests. Strangers stand out.
The price of this security is wide boulevards between these isolated neighborhoods, with high speed limits and long traffic lights. The arrangement is not bike-friendly! And crossing such boulevards on foot is time consuming for drivers and dangerous for pedestrians.
If you want to get people out of cars, you need to cut the crime. Residents need to feel safe living near businesses where strangers abound. And businesses need to be safe without bright outdoor lights if people are to sleep nearby. (If you move residences too far from businesses, people drive to work.)
If you want families to live closer together, thereby conserving land and reducing commutes, you need shared parks for kids to play in and streets safe enough for kids to walk unattended by grownups.
To contain suburban sprawl, crime reduction is Job Number One.
But you need to fight crime correctly, for there is another Inconvenient Truth: a pedestrian-friendly city is also a riot-friendly city.
Aggressive policing and excessive sentencing lead to riots eventually. This is where Republicans frequently drop the ball, and thus rarely get to govern large cities these days. Conservatives need a refresher course in criminal justice. We will provide one here, drawing from economics, history, Biblical Law, and the saner parts of the libertarian playbook. It is possible to dramatically reduce crime while reducing the prison population.
It will take more than criminal justice reform, however. We need to reduce the temptation for crime by creating a true opportunity society. And that includes opportunities for the not-so-academic. We need to reform the tax code, labor law, and do away with subsidized outsourcing.
We need to restore family values as well. Marriage reduces crime. Ergo, marriage is an environmental issue. The obvious first step is to reform the welfare system to eliminate the brutal marriage penalty the poor suffer.
Speaking of poverty and welfare, we leave you with one more Inconvenient Truth: a pedestrian-friendly city is a beggar-friendly city. Being accosted by dirty bums begging for beer money on a regular basis really eats into the charm of public spaces. Cheaper housing and a Citizen Dividend would help greatly here, and we will present other solutions as well.
Instead of restricting sprawl, let us make cities fun, and family-friendly, again.