A Weak Link in the Chain of Justice

Published August 8, 2012 at Rock River Times

Previously, I have written about Rockford’s out of control crime rate, what can be done about it, and who deserves the blame. My columns have, so far, focused on one aspect of law enforcement: the police who currently serve as our first line of defense. I have written about how inept politicians have chosen to deprioritize local law enforcement in their budgets, and how bureaucrats have tied the hands of police when it comes to combating street crime. This, however, is only one side of the story.

There is only so much the police can do to keep dangerous criminals off the streets. They can arrest criminals as many times as they want, but without the support of tough, competent prosecutors and an efficient court system, their efforts will have a limited effect. In Winnebago County, the chief prosecutor is State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato. Mr. Bruscato’s office has a less than stellar record when it comes to keeping repeat offenders behind bars.

The case of accused murderer Melvin J. Perkins is a good illustration of how, despite adequate police work, the bungling of the State’s Attorney’s office can put a repeat offender back on the streets and endanger the public. For Sandra Golden, who Perkins has been charged with stabbing to death, too many second chances ended in tragedy.


An Honest Conversation about Crime

Published July 25, 2012 at Rock River Times

It is time for an honest conversation about crime in Rockford, a conversation that focuses on solutions rather than excuses. For far too long, politicians and public officials have gotten away with blaming everything under the sun but themselves for their impotence in the face of the city’s problems. For years they have offered the same solution: raise taxes and pour money into public schools and development projects, with little effect. We need leadership with the courage to change the conversation and get results.

Unfortunately, dissemblance has become a way of life for our public officials. In an interview last week, for example, Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson masterfully side-stepped criticism over Rockford’s embarrassing crime rate. “There is too much crime,” he said. “When we look at crime reduction, crime is the end result. We have to look at poverty, the economy and education. Those are the core components. If we have a crime problem, that is the end. What has happened before that? We are making progress, but there is just too much crime.”

This is an incredible statement because, essentially, Chief Epperson is saying that there is little the police department can do about crime in Rockford. The police department, after all, can do nothing about poverty, education, or the economy. So until “we” fix those things, there is only so much the police can do to keep crime in the city under control. When the crime rate went down last year, however, he was quick to take the credit. Now, when it is on its way back up, it is because of factors outside of his control.


Escaping Leviathan

Published July 11, 2012 at Rock River Times

In this column, I will tackle two subjects: state and federal grants, and Prof. John Kindt’s guest column on Illinois gambling taxation in last week’s issue of the Rock River Times. Both of these subjects nicely illustrate the difference between advocates for bigger government and advocates for smaller government when it comes to the relationship between government and wealth.

Advocates for bigger government believe that the money you earn, whether it be through wages or income from a business, does not belong to you. In other words, government, be it state, local, or federal, should take what it needs from you first, and then you get to keep whatever is left. They believe that politicians and other government officials know what is best for you and will spend accordingly.

Advocates for smaller government, on the other hand, believe that every dollar you earn is yours first and foremost. When you give some of it to the government, you are expecting that it be spent frugally and wisely on a limited number of basic services. They believe that, although you are not perfect, ultimately decisions about how to spend your money should be left to you.