Monday, May 07, 2018

Zero tolerance makes zero sense, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit readers' attention:

Learning the ropes
Politico ran a nice feature on Nueces County DA Mark Gonzalez, focusing on his much-ballyhooed "biker gang" connections.

Proponents of revenge-porn restrictions must face 1A contradictions
Houston attorney Mark Bennett picks apart a forthcoming law review article trying to salvage a legal justification for Texas' anti-revenge porn law. Prosecutors and legislators hoping to rewrite the law after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals inevitably strikes it down on First Amendment grounds should/must suck up and solicit Bennett's advice. Ignoring him in 2015 is what got them in this mess. And they should be prepared: for reasons demonstrated in the above-linked blog post, his advice may well be that they simply can't get where they hope to go.

Zero tolerance makes zero sense
I thought zero-tolerance policing was fading out of style, but Austin PD announced they'd focus a zero-tolerance approach toward petty offenses in an East Austin neighborhood in response to complaints. They referred to it as a "special tactic," but there's nothing special about it. Really, it's sort of old hat.

Both R and D Bexar DA candidates back needle exchange
The needle exchange pilot in San Antonio, discussed here, not only has the support of the outgoing District Attorney, but also "the two candidates seeking to replace him in November," reported the Express-News. Said the Republican DA candidate, Tylden Schaeffer, “Distributing clean needles to addicts saves lives, saves money, and prevents the spread of deadly diseases. Done properly, by those with the right intentions, such a program should not cause more people to use and abuse drugs. I would allow a bona fide program to operate.” Schaeffer's position coincides with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which in 2015 approved needle-exchange operations statewide if they didn't use government money. (The bill never received a hearing in the Texas Senate.) Top state leadership has been consistently cool to harm-reduction measures like needle exchange, but an increasing number of lower-level GOP officials have now publicly supported them.

Why conservative should lead
The former head of the Texas Association of Business makes the case why conservatives should lead on justice reform.

Feds take cash from nurse destined for medical clinic, hold it hostage for liability waiver
A sympathetic asset-forfeiture victim from Katy challenges Customs and Border Protection policy of demanding victims hold the agency harmless before returning their money.


Anonymous said...

Not zero-tolerance, just tolerance.

Anonymous said...

It’s easy to say that a zero tolerance policy makes zero sense when you don’t live in the community where rampant crime and violence occur. However, it makes a lot more sense when law abiding people and business owners in the community request it in order to control the crime problem in their neighborhood, regardless of what NY Times and WaPo say.

Anonymous said...

In order to have zero tolerance you need 100% surety that the people you arrest are guilty.

Do you trust the government to do anything that accurately?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@10:57, I've lived in central East Austin ~28 years. for much of that time - prior to the last decade, more or less - my neighborhood was one "where rampant crime and violence occur." (Today, astonishingly, it's yuppie-land; in 1990, not so much.)

It "makes sense" for people to call the cops because it's the only option presented to them. If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That doesn't mean it won't pay off if the carpenter has more than one tool in her toolbox. A lot of criminal defendants are poor people who are just screwed. And pounding screws with a hammer is foolish, pointless, and needlessly destructive.

Anonymous said...


It seems that you’re saying that the police is using a hammer - zero tolerance - on crime when there is a more effective and less destructive tool - calling police after the crime. I’m saying that zero tolerance is one of many tools that police should consider using.

People calling police, who then catch these criminals after committing crimes is the ideal situation. However, everyone knows this is not an ideal world. Usually, after the crime is committed and the cops are called, the criminals disappear until the cops leave and then commit more crimes, especially against those who called the cops.

While a zero tolerance policy might not be the best tool, it might be better than the alternative of undeterred crime. If other policing alternatives were employed and had little impact, maybe the implementation of zero tolerance Is the right tool. Again, easy for people to criticize when those people are not the victim.


Anonymous said...

I don’t trust the government with “100% surety” that the people arrested are in fact guilty. However, I don’t think that the law requires “100% surety” that those arrested are guilty. My understanding of the law is that the police only need “probable cause” to believe the person arrested committed a crime.

Still I’m not a huge fan of zero tolerance because it sometimes sweeps up the good along with the bad. Yet I’m not going to criticize police or East Austin residents (I am not one) if zero tolerance is desired and needed to control the crime in the area or encourage criminals to move to another area of town.


Anonymous said...

Isn't calling the police "snitching"--something we are told not to do?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@7:58, don't be an idiot.

@7:56/10:57, I'm saying zero tolerance is an empirically failed tool the police should NOT be using. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

In 2013, Austin PD used a DOJ that was supposed to be for a specific restorative justice program to instead carry out zero tolerance enforcement in the North Lamar/Rundberg neighborhood, including working with the county justice system for harsh sentencing on the minor infractions. Eventually they stopped, saying that they had found it wasn't effective. However, there's never been a lick of data on any of that - exactly how many stops/arrest/convictions, who/where, or even the change (or not) in crime. There's no way to get the grant money back, but it should still be possible to pull that data together and at least learn something from what was done here.