What do politicians really mean when they say “I am the candidate who will be tough on crime?” For many, it’s the stereotypical “Law and Order” type of candidate who wants longer and harsher sentences for offenders. It means our police officers are going to be tasked with taking all the criminals off the streets. It may require an increase of funding for police departments. We might see proposals for new jails and prison facilities. We have seen these candidates come and go over the past few decades and yet the issue of crime is still unresolved. It is impossible to eliminate or significantly reduce crime by just arresting offenders and reacting. We need to think differently.
Major cities all across the country witnessed an alarming increase in crime. NYC saw a massive rise in crime in January of this year. Rates of robbery, felony assault, rape, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft all accounted for a 38.5% increase in crime compared to last January. As a community, we need to think about crime as the byproduct of other institutions’ failings or shortcomings, like our education system.
Our public schools are contributing to what is known as the achievement gap. White students in public schools across the city are more likely to be proficient in math and reading than black and latinx students. Many of the low-income communities across NYC consist predominantly of black and latinx people so it’s almost as if our children are being set up to be inadequate. Academic achievement is a useful predictor of future outward behavior. Students who perform well in school are more likely to have higher self-esteem and are more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior. Those who perform poorly are more likely to have lower self-esteem and are more likely to commit crimes later on. We need to think about crime as the result of poor educational achievement and we need to make sure our schools are supporting all of our students equally.
If our children really are the future, we need to invest in their education. We need to make sure they are better off than we were. We cannot let economic obstacles stand in the way of a young person’s career any longer. WE need to make college tuition more affordable and realistic for our lower income families. Students with high marks deserve to go to the best schools this country has to offer. Let’s help send them.
Attending college or a university may not be for everyone, which is why we also need to invest in our trade schools and apprenticeships. We need to help families with low incomes send their children to these institutions. Our children have to be exposed to the trade school career path before they graduate high school. This has to be included in their curriculum. We need our young people to be excited for their education and motivated to pursue a career in a field in which they are passionate towards. This will deter them from a life riddled in crime. This will help the next generation be better than us.
A generation of young people excited about pursuing their own careers is what we need as a community. It is how we grow. People turn to crime because they feel there is no better option. Let’s make education the better option. Let’s make kickstarting a skilled trade career the better option. Our leaders are capable of doing so much more for our children, but they continue to look the other way.
Criminal activity can end one’s career before it begins. Let’s get ahead while we can.
-Otis Danne Jr for NYS Assembly District 58