Questioning Statistics

RECEIVED Sat., Nov. 3, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Then There's This: Cracking Down on Homelessness” [News, Nov. 2]: Several years ago, I tried to get traffic and jaywalking statistics from the city in response to police harassment of homeless newspaper vendors. I was told that traffic and misdemeanor tickets are quickly delivered to the municipal courts, where they are no longer subject to the Open Records Act.
    Among the public, myself included, the word "crime" refers to major offenses such as murder and robbery that grievously affect individuals. We use the phrase "breaking the law" to refer to minor offenses such as jaywalking or sitting on the sidewalk that normally do not directly injure any specific individual, but merely ruin civilization if allowed to persist.
    Most of us don't need a whole lot of statistics to understand the situation. If we were homeless, would we be criminals? Maybe, perhaps, but probably not. At the same time, crime generally doesn't pay very well, and some criminals do end up becoming homeless. Yes, there are criminals among the homeless, but most of the homeless are not criminals.
    I'd like to state that most of the homeless are generally law-abiding citizens, but, well, at least they're not criminals, and they're doing the best that they can to survive, cope, and even put their lives back together. Neither the criminals among the homeless nor the general, unfocused police harassment of anybody who's homeless makes it any easier.
    Downtown already has stores that sell $70-80 dress shirts and a thriving Whole Paycheck grocery store. It's possible that without the homeless Downtown, rents would be even higher, property tax receipts would be even higher, and merchants could charge even more for the goods that they sell. However, there doesn't seem to be any need to move social services from Downtown at this time. We just need a new police chief.
Kirk Becker
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