By Thomas Sheffield
As Nashville continues to grow, it seems the crime rate grows faster. You cannot help but turn on the news and see reports of murders, burglaries, bank robberies and various other crimes committed by “Florida Man” and local suspects. We are constantly asking citizens to help police identify suspects caught on fuzzy or bad security camera footage. Our local, state and national politicians continue to take a stance on being tough on crime and resolve all issues with better training of the police, building more prisons and passing more laws. Thankfully, many politicians, both Republican and Democratic have committed to help pass prison reform legislation and restore voting rights. Most recently, Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky restored the voting rights to more than 140,000 nonviolent felons.
All of this is well and good. These measures are reactions to crime but are not working to prevent it. When I was a kid, my father had a bumper sticker. It said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” I thought that just meant if you go to school, you would make more money.
If we want to get tough on crime, there are ways that won’t cost us anything. One way is to forgive student loan debt. We were once promised higher education was key to a successful life. Now, there is no guarantee you will be able to find a job in your major field when you graduate. Think of how many of your co-workers have degrees in business, communications, sociology, psychology, or education and are working with you at a call center or restaurant or driving uber or lift. I believe the bumper sticker was speaking to a larger concept of it is better to be proactive than reactive. Now many of us are working 2 or 3 jobs plus a side gig just to make ends meet.
Nashville has been proclaimed the “it” city. We just elected a new mayor and council and they were elected to make some tough decision. The question is “Are they being tough on crime?” Mayor Cooper has made an unpopular decision to cut funding into the Barns Fund which helps nonprofits build affordable housing. If you want to get tough on crime or decrease the crime rate, affordable housing is key. If we want to get tough on crime, companies will need to pay a livable wage. If we want to get tough on crime, we should also promote affordable childcare as our citizens work harder to contribute to society. If parents are able to spend more time with their children teaching them and working with them, crime will go down. When people have less false choices to make, crime levels will go down. There is no way to eliminate crime altogether. But we must have ways to build people up with positive choices. Imagine what life would be like if we were really tough on crime.
If you feel the need to learn more, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.