Crime and cliches
I spent Friday running/driving through heavy rains and hanging out with the Pac-Man world record holder (first person to ever get a perfect score in the game - story coming in Tuesday's paper). I spent Saturday morning vegetating with Mrs. B and doing a little book shopping. Saturday evening I caught up on my news reading - Miami Herald naturally, the Virginian-Pilot, my home town paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, my last employer, the Wall Street Journal, a couple of gossip Web sites (my guilty pleasures), and a news industry news site.
Catchin' up on my reading is what brings us to this post.
I've flip-flopped for years on whether or not "Crime does not pay" is really a true statement. I could give you dozens, maybe hundreds of examples I saw as a crime reporter of criminals making big money. Granted, in many cases the profiteering criminals eventually got locked up or killed. But for a time, their behavior did pay.
Part of it is perception. If the casual observer believes crime pays, then that notion takes on sort of a legendary quality. I once wrote an article about drug dealer profit in which former, failed dealers acknowledged that when they calculated the amount of money they made, the hours spent, and the physical effort made to sell drugs, their hourly wage came to about what they'd make flipping burgers in Mickey D's. Same article: A kid - 5-years-old, if I remember right -was hit by a car in front of his house in Milwaukee. When emergency workers went to remove his clothes to check for injuries they found a baggie of white powder in the boy's sock and got police involved. The powder turned out to be baking soda. When all the adults involved asked the boy later why he'd put a bag of white powder, baking soda, in his sock he answered that he'd seen the older boys doing it in a park near his home. So he thought it was the thing to do.
Take this guy. Crime probably paid for him here and there over the years. Unfortunately for him, the well dried up late last week.
And this guy. A city councilman in my old stomping grounds, accused of shaking down business owners in his district and conspiring with two other men to assault another guy. I understand "innocent until proven guilty," but if the charges against the alderman turn out to be true then crime once paid for him. Not anymore.
So I read about these two and I think of another cliche about crime being difficult. You know, like "pimpin' ain't easy?" Seriously, I am the biggest goof when it comes to making jokes about pimps, even though I know they're bad. But even I'm smart enough to know that the reason criminals keep going back for seconds, and thirds, and so on is 'cause crime is easy. Taking a chance on dealing drugs, robbery, burglary, or worse, is no different philosophically than gambling money. And if you place a low value on your life, maybe gambling money means more to you than risking your life and freedom committing a crime. So many criminals become repeat offenders, because even after they're caught and sometimes punished they see their prosecution/incarceration as simply a bad roll of the dice or a bad draw from the top of the deck. And they figure the odds are in their favor for the next roll.
You know what's not easy? Brain surgery. That isn't easy. Rocket science isn't easy. Tying bow ties evenly isn't easy. Keeping poison toads out of your koi pond isn't easy. Getting out of bed to go to a legit job every day isn't easy. Restraining yourself from sticking a size 12.5 boot in the behind of the idiot kid who bumps his eardrum-shattering stereo as he drives past your house isn't easy. Not choking the crime-enabling rich guy cruising a poor neighborhood looking for a weed dealer, because he doesn't want sidewalk pharmacists doing business in his nice neighborhood isn't easy. Being a good spouse or a good parent isn't easy. Being a good friend isn't easy. Breaking a sweat to help a stranger isn't easy. Just doing the right thing isn't easy.
But each of these things - except the boot-in-the-behind and the choking of the drug buyer, 'cause you could land in jail too for assault - pays way more than criminal behavior and with much greater currency than just money.
Till Sunday evening, peace and hair grease.