THE REAL REASON BEHIND THE WORLDWIDE WAVE OF CRIME AND VIOLENCE
Garner Ted Armstrong & Keith W Stump
Lawlessness is on the upswing worldwide. Yet sociologists and criminologists are for the most part ignoring the root causes of crime.
In London, a Regent Street shopkeeper is attacked and robbed by a gang of juveniles while waiting for an underground train. In Sydney, Australia, a teenage girl is raped while her boyfriend is forced to look on helplessly. In Montreal, a secretary taking a walk in the park during her lunch break is suddenly grabbed from behind, dragged into the bushes, raped and beaten. In Miami Beach, a 70-year-old woman who had recently moved south to escape crime in New York City is tied up, beaten, and choked to death by two armed robbers. In Hamburg, West Germany, an American tourist is knifed and robbed on the waterfront. In Paris, an elderly man gets off the bus to walk the short distance to his home. Within minutes he is lying dead on the sidewalk, his body full of knife wounds and his wallet and watch missing. Crime and violence are becoming a way of life in much of the world today. Shocking crimes which a decade or two ago would have made front-page headlines are now so numerous that, in many cases, they are no longer news. Offenses of murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, burglary, arson, vandalism and the like continue on the upswing around the globe, despite ever-increasing expenditures for law enforcement. Developed and developing nations — democratic and communist — all are reporting rising levels of crime. Crime statistics, however, do not begin to tell the whole story. Studies reveal that up to two-thirds of all crimes are never reported! Many victims are either fearful or too embarrassed to come forward, or believe that nothing can or will be done even if they do.
Crime on the Rampage
The United States continues to be the trend-setter, with the highest crime rate of any Western industrialized nation. In a nation which spends nearly $20 billion a year to fight crime, someone is murdered every 26 minutes — over 20,000 people in 1976. Figures continue to surge upward in virtually all other crime categories as well. In Britain, law enforcement officials are concerned over the dramatic increase in crimes of violence and vandalism, and police warn that Britain could face violent crime "on an American scale" within a few years' time. The rate of murder and manslaughter has doubled over the past 15 years. And the rise in "petty" crime, such as shoplifting, is termed "shocking." In France — where serious crime has tripled in the past 14 years — the situation is becoming so serious that the government has set up a special commission to search for solutions to the problem. Italy is experiencing a crime wave of unprecedented proportions, and police officials are deeply concerned. Among other crimes, kidnappings for ransom have skyrocketed. And Rome now has the distinction of being "the most thief-ridden city in Europe." In West Germany, crime figures are up in most major cities. Authorities are especially worried by a marked rise in political terrorism. In Canada and Australia, the rising level of crime and violence is also triggering public concern. In Mexico, crime is growing at an alarming pace, with recent statistics showing Mexico's crime rate to be three times that of the United States and five times that of France. Crime statistics are rarely available for the Soviet Union, but reports from foreign newspapermen there indicate a rise in city crime — notably car theft — as well as hooliganism or petty crime. The People's Republic of China, currently experiencing a period of political and social tension, is in the midst of a widespread crime wave, including an upsurge in bank robberies, looting, rape and murder. And so the story goes in nation after nation today.
Why is crime skyrocketing around the world? What are the causes of crime? Many diverse theories have been put forward in an attempt to explain crime, including poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, racial discrimination, the easy availability of guns, inadequate police protection, unequal and delayed justice, alcohol and drugs, urbanization, financial strains due to inflation, the impact of television and motion picture violence, genetics, and so on. These factors unquestionably contribute to and aggravate the problem of crime, but are not, in and of themselves, root causes of it. What are often termed "causes" of crime are more often just excuses or justifications for it, or at best secondary or tertiary causes. Many people live in poverty, for example, but do not commit crime. In fact, the poor are the greatest victims of crime. Surprisingly, robbery and burglary actually declined in the United States during the Depression years of the 1930s, and later began to increase once again as prosperity returned! Many are unemployed or are under financial pressures of one sort or another, but do not resort to crime. Most citizens of racial minorities, though possible victims of discrimination, have not become criminals because of it. Most gun owners — handgun owners included — do not use them for criminal purposes. Most city dwellers do not turn to crime because of the pressures of city life. What, then, are the real underlying root causes of crime? Before viable solutions can be sought, the real causes must be pinpointed.
Breakdown of the Home
Criminologists have often observed that we are bringing crime and violence upon ourselves by the kind of society we have. And, not surprisingly, it's back to the home — the basic building block of society — that most crime can ultimately be traced. The breakdown of family life and the home is a major social trend in nation after nation today. Consequently, the home — which should stand as a strong bastion of resistance against the permissive and lawless influences of society — is no longer playing its proper role. One does not have to be a psychologist to uncover the real causes of crime. Interviews with criminals themselves quickly reveal a common denominator — problems in the home. From petty thieves to mass murderers, the same stories are heard over and over again: stories of parental neglect, or overindulgence; stories of harsh and severe discipline, or of none at all; stories of a weak or absent father figure, or of a domineering mother; stories of incest and other horrible sexual perversion within the home; stories of parental hypocrisy and double standards; stories of an absence of genuine love, understanding and affection in the family; stories of a lack of spiritual and moral training; stories of mothers leaving the home for a job of their own, abandoning children to sitters, day-care centers, or the streets; stories of broken homes and divorce; stories of parents "doing their own thing" and letting children fend for themselves. Parents, in short, have abdicated their responsibility of molding right character and instilling moral values into their children. In far too many cases, there is little or no teaching of respect for authority and the rights of others, of honesty, decency, reliability and cooperation. And in far too many cases, there is no strong parental example to reinforce such teaching when it is present. And, of course, today's morally emasculated schools do little to fill the gaps left by the parents. Neither do the world's churches, which have failed to powerfully and effectually set forth concrete moral and spiritual guidelines for everyday life. The result? Unprincipled, emotionally unstable, misguided and confused children — future criminals in the making. And even if some do not turn to crime, they nevertheless remain psychologically scarred for life. "Train up a child in the way he should go," counseled Solomon in Proverbs 22:6, "and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Yet how many are following this sage advice today? An American newsmagazine recently reported the following in this regard: "Japan is an almost crime-clean nation by Western standards.... Japan's record for law and order is the envy of police in the industrialized West. Japan is safe and getting safer." Why?
"Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.... All the land is full of murder and injustice." - Ezekiel 7:23; 9:9
Experts, the report explains, give most of the credit to Japan's social cohesion, the close-knit Japanese family, and respect for authority and tradition instilled in children by the parents. The breakdown of the home and neglect of parental responsibilities is without doubt a major root cause of today's worldwide crime epidemic. Crime prevention starts in the home. Yet all too many "experts" continue to pursue solutions based on secondary or tertiary causes of crime. Until they begin to emphasize the need for a revitalization of the family, crime will continue to surge upward.
Strong Deterrent Needed
To deal with those who have not had instilled within them a foundation of respect for law and who have chosen a life of crime, another element is required if crime is to be stopped. Former U. S. Attorney General Edward H. Levi has asserted: "We must understand that an effective criminal justice system has to emphasize deterrence. There are many causes of crime, but among them is the failure of our system to move quickly and effectively to detect and punish offenders." The second major cause of crime is the lack of a firm punitive deterrent against crime in the form of stiff penalties for those who commit it, penalties which fit the crime. In many of the Western industrialized nations, criminals are often arrested one day and back on the street the next, free to commit new crimes. Many who are arrested are never brought to trial. Of those tried, relatively few go to prison. Of those imprisoned, many are out long before their full sentences have been served. The United States, again, is the trend-setter in this regard, where criminologists estimate that of all serious crimes, only 12 percent lead to arrests, only six percent to convictions, and only one percent to prison. That is not the sort of treatment which is going to deter criminals from committing crime. In fact, criminals today are convinced they can literally get away with murder; that crime pays! They can commit the most violent and vicious crimes and find themselves back on the streets a short time later. Over half of the persons arrested on felony charges in the United States have prior criminal records — some having been arrested ten times or more previously. A man commits armed robbery of a liquor store and is released on bail to await trial. A few days later he is arrested again, this time for burglary. Again he is released on bond. When he fails to appear in court, a warrant is issued for his arrest. Arrested, he spends a few days in jail. The burglary charge is dropped on a "technicality." Found guilty of armed robbery, he is placed on five years' probation. While out on probation, he is arrested for rape while armed with a knife. "Revolving-door justice" it's being called. Criminals move in and out of the criminal justice system as though it had a revolving door. When will it be realized that laws do not deter crime? It's the swift, certain, consistent and impartial enforcement of those laws that is the deterrent! "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily," the Bible observes, "therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11). Prisons are rarely able to rehabilitate offenders, and often actually become "graduate schools" of crime. Rooting out ingrained character defects formed over many years is a nearly impossible task. Prisons are not a solution to crime, but prison terms that are meaningful and fit the crime can serve as punishment and as a means of isolating criminals for the safety of the rest of society. Since the majority of serious crime is committed by repeaters, incarceration for longer stretches will automatically result in a marked reduction in crime. And if criminals know that a "ten-year sentence" means a ten-year sentence, they'll probably think twice before committing crime.
In summary, effective teaching in the home during the formative years coupled with a strong deterrent to crime in the form of meaningful punishment by the criminal justice system would go far in eradicating crime. The institution of speedy and firm punishment for criminals would have the most immediate effect in slowing crime. Correcting the home situation would involve a major, long-range reeducation effort over many years, but in the end would pay the biggest dividends. To both efforts there would undoubtedly be much resistance on the part of so-called "progressive" thinkers who would view the debasement of traditional parental roles as a good thing, and would see stern punishment as "cruel" or "vindictive." There remains, however, the ultimate consideration of inner motivation — why man, left to himself, inclines to crime in the first place. The Bible reveals the ultimate cause of crime: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jer. 17:9). Why? Because Satan the devil — the very personification of evil and lawlessness — is the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4). He has deceived all nations (Rev. 12:9) and peoples into pursuing a self-centered way of life which leads to unhappiness and strife: He is revealed as "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). Six thousand years of recorded human experience have demonstrated that mankind as a whole has utterly failed to resist Satan's way of vanity, jealousy, lust and greed — of which crime and violence are the natural consequences. At one point in history, the situation became so critical that God was forced to start all over again. "The earth [in the days of Noah] also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11). Man's thoughts were "only evil continually" (verse 5). So the antediluvian world was wiped
Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter." - Isaiah 59:14
out by a great Flood, and all but Noah and his family perished. But Satan was still around, and mankind, after the Flood, quickly reverted to its old ways once again. Significantly, Jesus Christ prophesied of these "latter days": "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:37). Today's ever-rising level of crime and violence is fulfilling those very words!
The Ultimate Solution
The Bible also speaks of a time — not far distant — when Satan will be bound and cast into an abyss "that he should deceive the nations no more" (Rev. 20:2-3). Of that time the prophet Isaiah says: "Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so shall the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (Isa. 11:9, The Living Bible). In the final analysis, crime is a spiritual problem. Human nature, the Bible reveals, is a "criminal" nature, since it is "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). The solution to crime lies in the conversion of a carnal, lustful, resentful, spiteful, hateful human heart — changing the nature of selfishness, lust and hatred into one of giving, loving, sharing and serving! Today, God is keeping hands off this world. He is not yet ENFORCING His laws on anyone, but allowing each individual to go his own way — to exercise his own free moral agency. The failure of governments, churches, education and the family to understand and to practice the laws of God is at the root of the worldwide crime problem! But the time is coming, and you are hearing the announcement of it in the pages of this publication, when God's millennial rule over this earth will completely abolish crime! Whether legislators like to admit it or not, God's powerful method of deterrent for crime is capital punishment! ("The wages of sin is death" — Romans 6:23.) God says: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jer. 31:33). No human being, concentrating on the wonderful things of God's Holy Spirit — of goodness, gentleness, meekness, kindness, mercy and love — could ever brutalize another human being! God's Kingdom is the final solution! But what about now? Believe it or not, the ONLY interim solution is the realization of government and crime-fighting agencies that swift, sure, consistent punishment, measured exactly to suit the crime, will bring crime into reasonably controllable proportions. Lacking such absolutely guaranteed punishment — swift detection; swift, sure prosecution; sure convictions based on solid evidence; and just, consistent sentencing — we will only continue to see our international crime wave grow worse.