Two days ago I wrote about the “Porch Pirate (PP) and Amazon.” What I didn’t reveal at the time was that the article in The Atlantic magazine was funded by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.” The 8,478-word article on PP was written by Jane Smiley, and was part of The Atlantic’s project ‘The Presence of Justice’. Did it read like the PRESENCE of justice? How about the ABSENCE of justice? Or the PRESENCE of excuses?
PP in her own words: “I did it maybe once or twice, three times at the most; it wasn’t like a new job I went into”—and that she sold just one of them, a set of storage bins, for about $20. (She also told the author she stole mostly in order to buy necessities, not drugs.) She thought the packages would be replaced by Amazon and other senders, so her gain wouldn’t be her neighbors’ loss. “That’s what eased my conscience taking someone’s property, because I’m not a bad person, it was just a bad choice,” she told me. “I was in a desperate state.” In August 2018, thanks to video evidence, PP was found guilty of 23 misdemeanor charges of petty theft, receiving stolen property, and mail theft. And though Potrero Hill is an expensive area in which to live, PP, again, received public assistance, including food stamps, so her claim that “I stole mostly in order to buy necessities, not drugs,” was implausible and contradicted by the testimony of her own sister.
What I left out before: San Francisco County courts have long referred many low-level offenders to rehabilitative programs while they are awaiting trial rather than have them sit in jail. This practice endlessly angers the victims of the property crimes, and concerns cops, too. “Our big request is for consequences,” said Commander Raj Vaswani, who headed the district responsible for Potrero at the time, adding that police typically only pursue an arrest if a person or a camera directly witnesses the package being stolen…. Three times, one of the victims walked up to the window at Vaswani’s station in the Bayview, the southeastern-most district of San Francisco, which is among the poorest, with high violent crime rates. The officers seemed underwhelmed by his package gripes, saying that petty theft is a cite-and-release sort of misdemeanor and asking, “What do you want us to do?” He responded, “Prosecute her,” referring to PP. They said that was the district attorney’s job.
Locking up low-level criminals won’t solve what [W. David] Ball, the Santa Clara University law professor, believes is the root cause of these crimes: poverty within astronomically expensive cities. “Everyone assumes that jail works to deter people. But I don’t know if I were hungry, and had no other way of eating, that that would deter me from stealing,” he said. Smiley quoted PP’s defense attorney, Brandon M. Banks, who says “PP had been caught in a web of surveillance, gentrification, and racism.” He said she was “low hanging fruit of the justice system”, meaning what? I say it means reams of video evidence, eyewitness testimony, including that of her sister, the presence of scores of stolen packages and mail in her possession…..yeah, “low hanging fruit”.
Smiley reports that “wealth and race disparities were obvious in the courtroom” where PP was tried, and the writer seems to think that “the criminalization of poverty and addiction” are “systemic issues.” Really??? Where have we heard THAT before? Christopher DeGroot, in Takimag.com, opines: “In this sentimental confusion, Smiley is like any number of progressive ninnies, and there being an abundance of such enablers, it’s no wonder PP seems to have learned nothing from her crimes. Says Smiley: I visited PP in jail several times this past spring while she was waiting for another rehab program to accept her…. she continued to insist to me that she only stole a couple of times, and she seemed to feel worse for herself than for the people she stole from: “I never took anything that was somebody’s worldly possessions or anything that was personal…. I didn’t feel like it was that big to them.”
We have heard the description “failed state” applied to countries like Somalia and Venezuela, among many others (virtually all in Africa and South America). That description is starting to apply to San Francisco and Los Angeles, perhaps the state of California (the HBO show Californication wasn’t about the breakdown of law and justice, but the term might soon take on a different meaning). Lest you fall into the trap of thinking I am anti-black, let me clarify: The root problem is the lust for power of white leftist politicians and their failed philosophies. In Minneapolis, in a neighborhood called “little Somalia”, the people, almost all Somalian refugees, both police their own when they do wrong and support them in doing right. Thankfully for them, the white politicians leave them mostly to their own devices. It should be noted and emphasized that most of their community leaders were anti-corruption dissidents who fled Somalia ahead of death squads. In that sense, those Somali-Americans are as much American as they are Somali, while the white leftist politicians are like Somali warlords who use laws like Muhammad Siad Barre used guns.