Does the technology gap evaporate crime deterrence effects?

Crime deterrence effects are another benefit of the privileged?

Does the technology information gap in poor and minority communities increase their crime and imprisonment rates? My bet is, most likely.

If people with widespread access to the internet and the media, and who achieve higher levels of educational achievement know one thing — it’s that today’s technology can be used to track one’s every move. Cell phones, vehicles, surveillance equipment, electronic banking, and other GPS tracking devices, predictive-crime analytics, even DNA science — all give law enforcement an unprecedented ability to solve crimes. And hurrah for that!

But, people in the know understand they are being watched, tracked and are quite easily found. And, my understanding is that research indicates when people know they are being watched, they tend to behave better (eg. do you speed up or slow down when you see a police car?).

It’s not a stretch to say that under-represented populations who have little to no access to current tools or information such as the internet and electronic tracking tools, don’t experience this deterrent effect. Doesn’t that reasonably suggests they will more likely than those in the know to be headed for punitive actions, including long-term incarceration?

One answer ironically is that it would more just to spend additional resources to educate our poor and minority communities how electronic and other tools are being used to watch over them. One obvious benefit is that there will be a reduction in crime. The other is that many more of our citizens will end up not being incarcerated for deciding to commit a crime.

Sure, one can opine that crime is a personal-responsibility issue but, that’s just part of the equation. If one also believes there is a glaring privilege issue as I do, there is absolutely no reason why I should benefit unfairly when I decide to not commit a crime because of my belief that there is a high probability that I will be caught. This is yet another ‘benefit’ the privileged enjoy — and if we’re truly concerned about fairness we must address how to get this information in the hands of people who will well likely be deterred from making foolish life decisions. Yes, some career criminals will adapt and learn how to avoid surveillance and there is a need to continue public safety initiatives but, isn’t it worth the effort to spend some resources helping those who might otherwise make better decisions, like you and I do?

Thanks Dan ONeill for the photograph!