The root cause of crime


Crime has become a hot-button topic these days, and while a lot of fingerpointing and blame-shifting has been going on in political circles, I think it’s wise we took a step back and try to address the root problem rather than its symptoms.

A brilliant piece by Evgeny Morozov from the Slate, points out the following:

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Forget terrorism for a moment. Take more mundane crime. Why does crime happen? Well, you might say that it’s because youths don’t have jobs. Or you might say that’s because the doors of our buildings are not fortified enough. Given some limited funds to spend, you can either create yet another national employment program or you can equip houses with even better cameras, sensors, and locks. What should you do?

If you’re a technocratic manager, the answer is easy: Embrace the cheapest option. But what if you are that rare breed, a responsible politician? Just because some crimes have now become harder doesn’t mean that the previously unemployed youths have finally found employment. Surveillance cameras might reduce crime — even though the evidence here is mixed — but no studies show that they result in greater happiness of everyone involved. The unemployed youths are still as stuck as they were before — only that now, perhaps, they displace anger onto one another. On this reading, fortifying our streets without inquiring into the root causes of crime is a self-defeating strategy, at least in the long run.

While the article itself is directed at the folly of big data, the over-arching theme though points to a fundamental shift in policy making that is now solely focus on short term fixing rather than addressing the root cause of problems.  In short big data, seems to sometimes miss the big picture.

Read the entire article here.

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