In statistics, there is a joke which goes something like this:
A man tells his friend, “You know, a man in New York gets hit by a car roughly every 20 minutes.” His friend responds, “He must get really tired of that.”
Common sense tells us that it is a different man who gets run over every 20 minutes. However, if one man were to be hit time and time again, we may start to wonder about that man’s responsibility. The New York Times recently published an article that found that more than 6,000 shoplifting crimes in the city were committed by the same 327 people. Many of these people appear to benefit from New York’s changes to its bail system which precludes judges from holding suspects on bail for non-violent crimes, encouraging groups to organize crews to commit mass shoplifting to later resell the items online.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, data revealed that the root of gun violence in the state is driven by chronic repeat offenders who “exploit weaknesses in bail, sentencing, and parole laws to stay on the streets and terrorize neighborhoods.” In Hartford, CT, shooting suspects typically have long criminal records with an average of 10 prior arrests – and roughly 3 of which are for felonies.
In 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, jail records showed that on a given weekday the police arrested 70 to 90 people, while the majority of those were repeat offenders. On one specific day, 73 people were arrested, and of those, 60 had warrants.
Going back to the pedestrian joke – if we rightly assume that the “man” getting hit by the car is a different person every 20 minutes, then it makes sense to make changes to the rules of the road to prevent so many pedestrian accidents. But if it was truly the same man getting run over every 20 minutes, then the solution is to focus on the man – the person mainly responsible for the pedestrian accidents.
The problem of crime is a systemic one. There is no one policy that will stop all of it. But when you have data to show that crime is concentrated and committed by a small group of people, such as in New York, Connecticut, and New Mexico, then it is time to craft legislation that targets repeat offenders specifically.
Everyone makes mistakes throughout their lives. We as a society should help one another to get back up when we fall. But repeat offenders who continue to choose a life of crime should be kept away from people they could hurt.
It’s time we strengthen penalties for repeat violent offenders.