After the Memorial Day violence carries over into to the summer months, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board, as well as the newspaper’s usual suspects, typically pontificates about gun violence while offering few, if any, solutions to the problem.
Yesterday, the newspaper, again, gave its opinion, but offered only questions not solutions. Since the newspaper does not have a clue, I will answer their questions for them.
What will it take to get the message through to some that guns aren’t the way to solve disputes?
Long, long prison terms, including jail time — not probation — for every weapons offense. The newspaper does a disservice to the community by talking out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand, they ask the aforementioned question; then, on the other, the newspaper puts forth James Causey and Eugene Kane to whine about black incarceration rates. Causey went so far as to question the lengthy prison terms given to two men involved in the shooting of a Milwaukee police officer.
Why are some so eager to reach for their guns?
Because some people are simply thugs, think like thugs, and their anti-social behavior trumps the quality-of-life of the others in their neighborhoods. Milwaukee does not need gun control; Milwaukee does need THUG control. There are thousands of guns within five-square miles of where I live, but, in the past five years, no one has been shot. If someone in my neighborhood flashed a gun, the local police would be flooded with 911 calls. Calling the police and cooperating with investigators equates to putting up a “Thug Free Zone” sign. If the criminal element is aware that they cannot intimate the populous and get away with crimes, they will move to another area where individuals are willing to turn a blind-eye to anti-social conduct.
Looking to explain gun violence, Mr. Causey and Mr. Kane often note that poverty is the root cause of gun violence. I disagree. There are many poor areas in rural Wisconsin where a plethora of guns and drugs —methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana — are present. In these areas, however, there is very little gun violence.
Gun violence is unique to some areas of Milwaukee because of the city’s vibrant, open-air drug trade. Operating a drug racket in a high area of prostitution is akin to having a license to print money. After prostitutes turn a trick, they scamper to the local drug house to get their next fix. Prostitutes also attract plenty of customers who also willing to buy drugs anonymously in these open-air markets. Whatever criminal organization controls the turf containing these drug markets stands to make thousands of dollars of profit each and every day. The competition for this turf is intense. Some of these criminal organizations actually refer to themselves as “nations,” and, like sovereign countries, use weapons to defend their territory or to conquer rivals.
To understand the thug culture one must also understand basic economics, typically a tough subject for liberals, who tend to think emotionally instead of rationally. If city leaders want to reduce gun violence, they have three choices:
First, increase the opportunity costs for criminal drug gangs. This means draconian prison sentences — fifteen-year minimums for any type of drug trafficking offense and 25-year minimums for any type of crime involving a firearm. I doubt the JS Editorial Board has the stomach for this approach, even though it would make a substantial difference.
Second, Wisconsin lawmakers could reduce and/or element the need for customers to patronize the turf controlled by criminal drug gangs. This would require drug legalization of some sort and would result in other societal costs. This type of legalization would likely result in more persons experimenting with hard drugs once the social stigma is removed.
As things stand politically, I do not see the JS Editorial Board, Mr. Causey, and liberals supporting the first option. Moreover, I doubt that the state legislature will support the latter approach.
There is, however, a viable third option, although it would require community buy-in, a chief-of-police willing to advocate for more boots on the ground and less Big Brother surveillance, and a mayor interested in doing more than conducting photo ops with the police chief. This avenue calls for a well-run, decentralized area saturation patrol strategy (ASP), coupled with a strong, well-funded detective bureau. Retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis has written an easy to read book about this topic. With shipping, the cost is about $15.
Frankovis’ book should be mandatory reading for the JS Editorial Board and for Mr. Causey. The brilliance of the ASP strategy is its laser-like approach based on intelligence gathered from the community. ASP is also cost effective. At Districts Five and Three, Captain Frankovis implemented this strategy absent the usual bureaucratic complaints of inadequate staffing.
Why is it so easy for the wrong people to end up with guns in their hands?
We live in a free society and, unless substantial penalties for transferring firearms to prohibited persons actually occur, guns will fall into the hands of bad people. After all, drugs are illegal, and yet controlled substances manage to find their way to Milwaukee after being harvested, manufactured, and packaged in South America and parts of Asia.
Personally, I would pass and then strictly enforce statutes in Wisconsin that mimic federal laws on firearms. This means a 15-year minimum for a second firearms offense and a 25-year to life minimum for a third firearms related offense. Without this type of tough sentencing, the JS Editorial Board’s discussion of the matter amounts to little more than bloviating. These types of sentences will significantly impact the black community, which will cause the usual suspects — those who complain about gun violence, but, in reality, besides midnight basketball, offer no solutions — carping about prison sentences handed out to the thug element.
Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.
If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.
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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2014