A new District Attorney was recently elected in the city of San Francisco. His platform was rather interesting. It was, in fact, just the opposite of what one would expect. He has promised not to prosecute “quality of life” crimes.
In case you’re not up on such terminology, please allow me to explain. Better yet, let’s allow the new D.A. to explain. In his words, “Crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc., should not and will not be prosecuted.” I know what you’re thinking. “He promised this and still got elected?” Why, yes. Yes, he did.
It was a razor-thin margin, but he was voted in nonetheless. I have no dog in the hunt, as they say, so I’m not going to put up much of a fuss. The citizens of San Francisco have foisted this upon themselves, so it’s their business, not mine. It has, however, decreased my desire to visit the city where Tony Bennett left his heart (which he may want to retrieve at this point).
Just think about your own neighborhood for a moment. If this guy was your D.A., your neighbor could be out walking his dog and decide to defecate on the sidewalk in front of your home. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters are in New York, not in San Francisco. It would make no sense to call the police either. Why would they go to the bother of arresting someone who wasn’t going to be prosecuted? It would be a waste of their energy and taxpayers’ money.
The new D.A.’s stated aim is to help “decriminalize poverty.” I remember my Mom telling me as I was growing up, “You don’t have to be rich to be clean.” We didn’t have much, but I would have been summarily punished if I even approached the behavior this D.A. wants to legalize.
I have no doubt that it would be a very difficult job to clean up the streets of San Francisco as they currently stand. Still, isn’t it worth a try? This guy—and those who voted for him—seem to be giving up.
Broken Window Theory
There’s a thing called the “Broken Window Theory.” Simply put, it’s “a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.” In other words, if you let the little stuff slide, it will lead to things that are much worse. Under that theory, allowing people to use your street as a restroom is a step in the wrong direction.
There’s an interesting verse in Zechariah that says, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.” Another way of putting it would be, “Take baby steps!” Small, positive changes could be good.
In a somewhat related article, however, a man was handcuffed and arrested for eating a sandwich on the Bay Area Rapid Transit. Maybe it will be more than a small change after all.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]