Power & Market

Police Waste Resources Fighting Victimless Crimes Instead of Real Crimes

On a recent broadcast of NPR’s All Things Considered, host Ari Shapiro talked with U.S. Representatives Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) about their bipartisan bill to address the backlog of rape kits in the United States.

rape kit is “is a package of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault.”

After praising each other for “reaching across the aisle,” Rep. Mace remarked this legislation is needed because “state and local law enforcement agencies sometimes lack the resources or lack the organization to be able” to address the backlog of rape kits. (There are, supposedly, “more than a hundred thousand” untested rape kits across the country.) Rep. Lee then made a dubious claim: “1 in 5 women are victims of rape or attempted rape. And the numbers are even higher for women of color.” She might as well have just said that all men are beasts and potential rapists.

Rep. Lee further explained that their bill “doesn’t provide any new funds to state, but it conditions the use of what we send already—the Byrne JAG funds—on following a simple reporting requirement.”

Shapiro brought up a good point, even if he does not believe its premise: “We so often hear that law enforcement is not national. It is state and local.” The response of Reps. Lee and Mace was that although their states were addressing the issue, they still needed the support and help of Congress.

Law enforcement is indeed a state and local matter. What James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45 is just as true today as it was when he penned it in 1788: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.”

So, if we are going to strictly follow the Constitution—like members of Congress should all be doing—the federal government should not be funding state rape kits or helping the states to address the backlog of rape kits. This does not mean that rape is not a horrible crime. This does not mean that the backlog of rape kits is no big deal. This does not mean that rape is not the ultimate form of violence against women. It just means that it is a state and local manner.

A real crime has a victim—not a potential victim or a possible victim, but a tangible and identifiable victim who has suffered measurable harm to his or her person or property. Rape is a serious, violent, and real crime that the police should be expending taxpayer resources to solve.

A victimless crime has no victim. This includes things like price gouging, ticket scalping, usurious interest rates, selling alcohol on Sunday, keeping a bar open past a certain time, providing a service without a license, discrimination, prostitution, illegal drug use, and gambling (without the state’s permission). The police should be expending zero taxpayer resources to prevent the commission of victimless crimes or punish anyone for committing one.

ZERO, as in zip, nada, zilch, none, nothing.

Yet, police throughout the country are wasting millions and millions of taxpayer dollars fighting victimless crimes.

The greatest example of this is the war on drugs.

Yes, I know that the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in twenty-three states and the medical use of marijuana has been legalized in thirty-eight states. But not only does the federal government still classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) with “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision,” the states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana have a myriad of rules and regulations. And of course, no state has legalized any drug other than marijuana.

It is a grave injustice to rape victims for the police to waste resources fighting victimless crimes instead of real crimes. It is also a grave injustice to taxpayers.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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