Homicide and Digging Holes and Then Filling Them Up Again

But without bodies at the bottom of those holes. From the Washington Post (boldface mine):

Every time a trigger is pulled and a victim is shot dead in D.C., the city pays at least $1.53 million in response, according to a new report commissioned by local nonprofit Peace for D.C.

Police race to the scene; an ambulance transports the victim to a hospital; law enforcement searches for perpetrators, attorneys argue in court, suspects are jailed pretrial and then sentenced to time in prison; a coroner’s office investigates the cause of death; and bereaved families receive social-services benefits as small compensation for their life-altering loss. Each step costs taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars. And then the cycle repeats.

In 2021, it repeated 226 times, as the District struggled with a murder rate not seen in over a decade. A similar process, for each person who sustained a shooting injury but survived, unfolded 904 additional times last year. In total, the report found that gun violence in D.C. directly cost city taxpayers almost $1 billion in 2021 alone

The report unveiled the economic toll of these acts of violence, making the argument that it would actually save the city money to invest heavily in comprehensive intervention programs rather than pay for hundreds of shootings each year. If the District cut its gun-violence rate by 20 percent, the report said, the government could save up to $178 million each year.

“Rather than paying after the fact in policing, prosecution, hospital, and judicial costs, the District should invest much more in stopping violence before it happens with strategic community-based violence intervention efforts that reach all of those who are at highest risk,” Lashonia Thompson-El, executive director of Peace for D.C., said in a statement.

For context, D.C. has nearly 3,500 police officers for a city of around 700,000 people: one cop per 200 people. Would adding 400 more officers really make the difference here? Or do we assign each potential criminal his own cop? (and before someone starts talking about more detectives, these men don’t talk to police officers. If they did, we could solve more of these murders. The solution needs to start with the young men who do these crimes).

That last sentence in the article is crucial: we can predict who these young(ish) men are likely to be and intervene before the shooting happens. Much of the violence involves, at most, a few hundred men in their late twenties, early thirties (it’s not the Dreaded Teens). If we need to create make-work jobs–what Keynes referred to as ‘digging holes and filling them up again’–then do that. If it costs $130,000 per job in total (wages, any benefits, management, equipment to do the actual job, etc.), that’s one tenth the cost of a murder.

At least the dug holes wouldn’t have bodies at the bottom.

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1 Response to Homicide and Digging Holes and Then Filling Them Up Again

  1. ronzie9 says:

    Maybe the policing jobs are the make-work jobs, and the Black body count is the intended outcome?

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