The Environment does not "Cause" Crime but the Environment may Facilitate It

Crime flourishes

Posted Feb 05, 2011

I just spent two weeks on St. Croix, a lovely Caribbean island that is part of the United States Virgin Islands. St. Croix has everything one could ask for in many ways - beautiful beaches, ideal weather, historic sights. However, tourism has languished there for decades, in part because of the island's reputation as being unsafe.

I have been a repeat visitor to this island but have watched with dismay the lack of police response to complaints. Within the course of two weeks, I saw unsafe and unsanitary conditions that, when reported to the police, were ignored. I have been told over the years by fellow tourists and residents of the island that calling the police is usually a waste of time - "They don't do anything." I watched a citizen file a report that her home had been broken into and burglarized. I wondered about the casualness with which she did made the report at the police station. She indicated she knew who the perpetrator was but expected that nothing would be done.

These is a general sense of lawlessness. You call the police. They say they will investigate a situation. Nothing happens. You file a report. Nothing happens. Within two weeks, I watched a man on a paddle board in the ocean deliberately menaced and set upon by speeding jet skiers who invaded a clearly delineated swimming area. I watched other jet skiers deliberately enter these areas and terrify others in the water. I saw race horses galloping with their riders down the beach where families with little children were playing by the water's edge. A noise ordinance was repeatedly violated with music blasting until 3:30 one morning, 4 a.m. another. When someone sought to determine the source of the music, he was too frightened to enter the club to request that the volume be turned down. He was fearful of the consequences to himself and his business if he filed a complaint. And he knew the police would take no action.

Former mayor, Rudy Guliani, turned New York City's safety record around radically. He knew that people who violate the rights of others in small ways are likely to do so in more major ways. Law enforcement officers were successful in turning what was a crime-infested metropolis into a relatively safe city. They concentrated on small offenses as well as policed the obvious major infractions.

My attempts to talk with law enforcement officials met with silence. Police reports were taken, but I never heard back. Phone calls were not returned.

In such an environment, it is not surprising that major crime flourishes when rumors abound that the police won't do anything, that the police and many of the criminals are related, and that reporting offenses to the police can endanger the reporter.

It is the criminal who commits the crime. It is the responsibility of public officials to deter criminals. Crime flourishes in areas that tolerate it!