When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose

Political leaders, police and news media always seem to be perplexed about violent crime, especially when it happens in unexpected areas. The recent incidents of criminal activity in downtown St. Louis prompted people to ask why some seem to have so little regard for others.

Mayor Slay pledged a crackdown on downtown St. Louis crime, but didn't promise a similar crackdown on crime in other areas. It's as if crime happening in other areas was unimportant or as if suddenly people are now committing illegal acts, but only in areas that matter. Evidently, murders and other crime that occur in some neighborhoods are less urgent than others.

Poverty and crime are related. The United Nations and the World Bank acknowledge poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse. People who have nothing, often feel they have nothing to lose and they aren't that concerned about what others have to lose. 

Before heroin addiction became an epidemic in white middle-class communities, drug addicts, especially black ones were treated as criminals which increased the vicious nature of some crimes. Factor in poverty and drug addiction and increased criminal activity is easy to understand. Common sense tells me that since drug addiction has increased in white communities, crime has already increased or will soon. Those white drug addicts consider their drug of choice a necessity and will do anything to get them. Drug distribution networks that government and law enforcement allowed to flourish during the black crack epidemic are now fully entrenched to supply the white heroin epidemic. Ironically, most of the black heroin addicts that I have learned about recently lived in predominately white communities.

The FBI ranks St. Louis as the top US city for violent crime. St. Louis was ranked as one of the most segregated and the third poorest city with a population over 200,000 in the United States. The City of St. Louis has a legacy of racism and corruption that has contributed to poverty and current crime problems. Ferguson should have been a wake-up call for the region, instead the St. Louis City Police Chief coined the phrase "Ferguson Effect", to indicated increased crime was caused by those complaining about oppression.

The entire St. Louis Region appears to be in denial about racial and economic injustice and oppression. St. Louis has the Delmar Divide, a street that divides communities by race which gained international attention a few years ago. St. Louis has a reputation of being a racist city. In the short documentary film, "Racism in St. Louis", one film creator explained that even a homeless man in New York mentioned how racist St. Louis was.

Many of the U.S. Supreme Court Decisions concerning St. Louis involved racial issues including the Dred Scott Case which was one of the major issues leading the country to Civil War. In fact, in 1847, William W. Brown stated, "no part of our slave-holding country, is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants, than St. Louis". Racial restrictive covenants were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the St. Louis case of Shelley vs Kraemer.

Even the standard test of racial employment discrimination by the U.S. Supreme Court was created in the St. Louis case of Green vs McDonnell Douglass. Until St. Louis takes steps to correct past injustices, this city and region will continue to decline. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student learns about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs; including violent crime.This doesn't mean that only poor people commit crimes, but the motivation for committing those crimes are different.  

People of means often commit crimes of greed, so-called "white-collar crime".

White collar crime is usually financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals such as bribery, kickbacks, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and a variety of other crimes. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three). Today’s fraud schemes are more sophisticated than ever. 

Poor people often commit crimes of need, based on perceived necessity or survival. 

When a person can't feed himself or his family and can't find work what do you think they'll do? Starve? No, depending on their level of desperateness, they will do whatever is necessary. Some will borrow, some will seek public assistance if they qualify or beg, others will steal. Some time ago, the media was reporting how theft of Tide laundry detergent had dramatically increased and most recently, a shoplifter was shot trying to steal steaks and toilet paper. Those people were stealing food and other basic need items.

Many people facing hunger or homelessness believe they have nothing to lose, and nothing is more dangerous to society than a person who has nothing to lose. St. Louis needs to start addressing the causes of crime instead of just reacting to it. 

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