Somewhere in the not too distant past, a theory of policing was advanced called the "Broken Windows" theory which basically posited that stopping small crimes would halt the advancement of petty criminals into bigger crimes and larger felonies. The Broken Windows policy has an evil twin it pals around with - Zero Tolerance
We have now moved well beyond the theoretical phase and have actually had a chance to see how these conservative set pieces have eroded society as opposed to strengthening it.
Embedded within the theory of both Broken Windows and Zero Tolerance is a belief that todays jaywalker is tomorrows mass murderer. Wouldn't it be great if life really were that simple?
What if today's jaywalker is simply tomorrow's jaywalker? How much have we helped society or the jaywalker if we arrest him/her and then add "resisting" to the charge sheet when they ask "You're kidding, right?"
How much have we helped society or the jaywalker when we put the jaywalker into a choke hold and then inadvertently or carelessly kill them?
Assuming the jaywalker has managed to escape with their life and simply has to deal with the misdemeanor jaywalking and the escalated felony of resistance, how have we helped either them or society when they now can no longer go to the school they were enrolled in or get the job or security clearance they had hoped for? How have we helped them or society when we have now made it close to impossible for them to have anything other than a life of menial jobs and more potential run-ins with the law, now that they have a record?
How is it that such a disproportionate number of jaywalkers are minorities?
We have practically created a municipal police factory system which creates human cogs everyday to populate a permanently poor, nihilist segment of society with no hope and no belief in a just society. What reason have we given them to believe in such a thing?
Why are we then surprised when our cities and towns are filled with unemployed jaywalkers with no future who may in fact turn to drugs and crime as a result of our denying them the alternative of a happy and productive life because they were so foolish as to have jaywalked, or to have sold individual cigarettes or not to have moved quickly enough? Or name any one of the thousands of other petty nuisances which are now construed to be serious enough to ruin lives and fill jails for - because Broken Windows.
Broken Windows and its malevolent twin Zero Tolerance are robbing our society of the concepts of proportion and judgement and mercy and plain old common sense and we are all paying the price daily.