The Coming Crime Wave

Yesterday I talked about the frightening report from the Council on Crime in America, which predicts "a coming storm of juvenile crime." Why? Because male adolescents commit the bulk of violent crime, and we’ve got a huge surge of juveniles—many of them fatherless—coming along in the next decade. We’ve got to do something. But the solution doesn’t lie, as the politicians seem to think, in cops and prisons alone. We’ve quadrupled prison space in the last 20 years, and still crime surges. No, the real answer—the only one that will work—is attacking the root causes of crime. Now, conservatives don’t like talking about root causes, because, for 40 years, we’ve attacked liberals for blaming poverty and racism for crime, excusing the individual. But just because the liberals picked the wrong root causes doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are. The true root cause of crime is a lack of proper moral training, as the landmark 1985 study by two Harvard professors, Wilson and Hernstein, demonstrates. To deal with crime we have to start the task of moral reformation. It begins with the family. Family breakdown is the leading indicator of criminal behavior. How do we help create stable families? By ending things like no-fault divorce and by stigmatizing single parenthood. No, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion on single parents. We should. But we shouldn’t normalize the Murphy Brown model of parenting, either. Next, we have to work on rebuilding what Bill Bennett calls "character-forming" institutions. That means jump-starting private efforts to rebuild civil society in our inner cities. For example, school choice is a must. Why? Because good private schools, often Christian, are the closest many inner-city kids are going to get to a healthy family life. We also have to admit that value-free public schools have helped create value-free students—kids who don’t think twice about keeping a lost wallet or having a baby before graduation. Too many of today’s teachers simply shrug and say it isn’t their job to lecture students about right and wrong. This is ethical malpractice. We can all surely agree that our schools be required to teach basic moral concepts. What else can we do to bring about moral renewal? We can organize full-scale boycotts of producers of pornography, demand tax credits for families, and support, with public money, private organizations with a proven track record in rescuing families—the kind of thing Sen. Dan Coats is arguing for. Of course, these solutions shock those who mock the very idea that morality has anything to do with crime. But the moral breakdown in America is the root of the horrendous crime crisis. Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has written a book in which he admits his mistakes in Vietnam—that his policy of simply trying to contain the enemy, instead of going all out to win, was a fatally flawed decision. Today, we’re making the same mistake in the war on crime. We’re locking people up and hoping the problem won’t get worse. But if we really want to win the war on crime, we have to go after the root causes. Because if we don’t, the coming surge in fatherless boys will eventually lead to the mother of all crime waves.


Chuck Colson


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