In every American city, there are crack houses. Addicts know where they are. That is why crack houses make money.
The police seem not to know where these crack houses are. That is why crack houses make money.
How is it that the crackheads know where the crack houses are, but the police do not?
If I were to teach a class on criminology, I would begin with this question.
The economist answers the question with this statement: “There are differences in the results of personal cost-benefit analyses.”
The crackheads want a benefit: a brief high. For this, they are willing to bear a cost: money.
The police want a benefit: another day of life. For this, they are willing to bear a cost: pretended blindness.
The public never asks the question: “How is it that the crackheads know where the crack houses are, but the police do not?” This provides a convenient cover for the police. There are no negative sanctions applied by the public. This lowers the price of selective blindness. Economics teaches this: “When the price of something falls, more is demanded.” Selective blindness spreads.
The people who live in the neighborhoods where crack houses are located do not bother to ask the question. They know the answer. They do not have much police protection. They are marginal. They know why. They have little political clout. They are dealing with the government.
The people who live in neighborhoods without crack houses do not ask the question, because they do not see the problem. The problem never occurs to them. “Out of sight, out of mind.” They have police protection, or think they have. They are not politically marginal.
Yet these people really do face the problem. The local crack house is the public high school. It is a drug emporium. It is where the money is. But if they were to see this, parents would face a decision: whether or not to pull their children out. To pull them out would be very costly. So, the parents prefer not to see the problem. In this sense, they are like the police.
Do the police make lots of arrests on campus? No. What if these arrests were constant? What if the sons of upper-middle-class whites were constantly being arrested? What would be the political fallout of a war on drugs where the drugs really are? Not good for public school administrators. Not good for the police.
The police learn to see crime selectively: in terms of a cost-benefit analysis of the kinds of crime to notice and deal with, and the kinds of crime not to notice and not to deal with. It has to do with grease. The squeaky wheel gets greased. So do palms.
(For the rest of the article, click the link.)