Sunday, February 18, 2007

Panic Policy

Perfect example of panic policy going on in Britain right now. Some high-profile shootings by teens has Tony Blair proposing lowering the age for adult prosecution for crimes using guns from 17 to 21. Sounds reasonable, right? TV and newspapers blaring daily about the latest shooting and making policymakers look inept for not dealing with it. And how do you deal? Well, tell teenagers "before you shoot anyone, think about the longer prison sentence you'll get." . . . Think you see the problem? Well, that is one, but that's not really the big one. It takes a while, you have to get near the bottom of the article before you get this quote on the logic of the panicked policy:

Shadow home secretary David Davis welcomed the review but warned: "Yet again we are seeing the prime minister reacting to a headline rather than dealing with the issues in the long-term."

"We now have to think what are they going to do for 16-year-olds and 15-year-olds because these gangs won't stop at using younger kids to carry guns, drugs, whatever it may be."
He told Sky News's Sunday Live: "We have got to take some time. Think it through, do it properly."

Yeah, good luck with that. But here's the kicker for why this is a perfect example of media-driven panic in the face of a completely different reality (this time at the very end of the article):

Cindy Butts, of the Metropolitan Police Authority, warned against "knee-jerk reactions to the problems that we're facing".

"As shocking as these events are, we have had a 16% drop in the number of gun crimes here in London and I think it is important that we don't scaremonger, that we don't blow things out of proportion," she told BBC News.

IOW, the thing to do when a problem is actually in remission according to actual evidence is to overreact and add to the population in your prisons where those young criminals will get even better educations than we would ever want. Panic and thoughtlessness drives so much of what we do in crim just, precisely as it's doing now in Britain. We'll keep our eyes on this for you because it's a case study rolling out on how not to do smart policymaking, even in the face of logic and data. Not that it will really help anything we do here, but it will demonstrate how hard the task of evidence-driven policymaking is in the face of determined ignorance.

No comments: