Dallas police often can't solve the crime problems that really frighten people, like a series of increasingly brazen burglaries in East Dallas, but the city council is busy making up a whole slew of additional "crimes" that divert law enforcement's resources away from more serious offenses ("Some recent laws seen as protecting Dallas residents from themselves," March 28):
At the decade's dawn, Dallasites could smoke in restaurants, walk their dogs without carrying a pooper-scooper and stroll through downtown or South Dallas without being monitored by police video cameras.Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson likes to say that there is no greater enemy to liberty than a city council, because there are few checks and balances at the municipal level and they tend to be outcome oriented.
Children, meanwhile, were free to run through parks playing with their toy six-shooters. Homeless people could beg for money at will.
Today, no more – the Dallas City Council has since deemed such actions illegal and subject to stiff fines.
And when the council members passed an ordinance last month banning motorists from calling or texting on their cellphones while driving through school zones, some Dallasites said the decision represented a larger trend toward government "nannyism," in which well-intentioned politicians end up treading on individuals' liberties.
City records also indicate that many of these laws, designed to improve residents' quality of life, are rarely enforced.
But overcriminalization and nanny statism isn't just a local problem, or a problem with low-level offenses. When the Legislature ended last session, there were 2,324 felonies on the books (eleven of them involving oysters) and thousands more misdemeanors. The Fifth Circuit overturned one of them since then, leaving 2,323 separate acts presently labeled felonies in Texas.
Nanny statism isn't just happening at the Dallas City Council (or the Austin City Council, where it's even worse). It's a general trend of government at all levels. We've long ago criminalized, and punished harshly, things that are actually wrong. Now government has devolved into passing harsh laws against things that are merely annoying.