Treating crime the way other countries do

Published 12:19 am Saturday, August 22, 2009

After returning from a four-day vacation earlier this week, a Selmian’s car was broken into within his first two hours on home soil. The thief smashed his front passenger-side window and stole two items.

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. That old axiom certainly applies to faith in your fellow man to not covet your property, or at least not break into that property to claim that which he covets.

Look around folks. The rules of society as explained in depictions seen in Andy Griffith’s Mayberry or told in old timers’ stories when reflecting on simpler times no longer apply. Children have to be off the street before the sun goes down, locks and deadbolts are turned at all times and law enforcement has bigger fish to fry than Otis, the town drunk.

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The daily police reports are usually rife with reports of theft, burglary, robbery, break-ins and selling or receiving stolen property. And as seen in Thursday’s edition of The Selma Times-Journal, sometimes just breaking into and looting homes is not enough. Assaulting the elderly comes with the territory when they are foolish enough to be in their own homes.

More troubling, the numbers aren’t going down.

Say what you will about America being civilized, home of the free, etc. Both are true, but the American penal system is also a safe haven for criminals. Some are the homeless who commit crimes so they can go to a place with a bed, heat/air conditioning and three meals a day — sadly, a fate better than most will find on the streets.

Others covet that which they don’t have the means to acquire, and were created without a conscience capable of controlling them. Still others see flashy, expensive items, and covet the money or drugs that serve as their reward.

That in mind, the actual statistics are mind-boggling. According to, the United States led the world in burglaries in 2008 with a total of 2,151,875. Germany was No. 2 with 1,055,812.

Who’s at the bottom of the list? Countries in the Middle East. Qatar comes in at No. 60 with 300. Yemen is at No. 62 with 110. Saudi Arabia (14) and Oman (0) bring up the rear at Nos. 66 and 68. Why are they and other countries in the region near the bottom? Because they do not take crimes, no matter how small or petty, lightly.

One common method of dealing with criminals in other countries is to separate limbs from their bodies. For instance, a thief steals an object with his right hand. When he is caught, his right hand is cut off. Make an example of a few criminals, crime will go down.

The story of Michael P. Fay, an American citizen, grabbed national headlines in 1994. Fay committed vandalism during a visit to Singapore, and was sentenced to six cane strokes as penance. In other words, his punishment was to be struck six times by a thick, heavy piece of wood.

Other countries house their criminals in narrow, short cells. They are not wide enough to comfortably sit in, and there is not enough room to fully stand. The criminal is forced to suffer in an awkward, painful position.

There used to be a time in this country when public hangings and executions were used as a means to deter and warn people what would happen if they committed the same crime.

Now a person can kill 15 people, spend 50 years on death row, file 200 appeals, have pro-human groups come to his defense and, if the victim’s family is lucky, he will get a lethal injection four decades after committing the act.

This country does not need to fully adopt the policies some of these other countries use, but it does need to learn a few tricks of the trade. Yes, many of these are complete and total violations of human rights. But, the tradeoff for willfully committing crimes should be that those basic human rights go out the window, and Miranda rights are the only ones that should come into play.

Take a hint from some of the countries Americans look down on. Their human rights records may be deplorable, but they know how criminals are supposed to be treated. Their crime figures are lower because the consequences of criminal actions are severe.

Keep coddling the criminals in this country and worrying that their cells are too small or there’s overcrowding or they will miss a meal, and the tolls will just continue to rise.