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HomeOpinionOPINION:Theft & Citizenship

OPINION:Theft & Citizenship

From the film Full Metal Jacket . . .

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman : [after discovering Private Pyle’s unlocked footlocker]  J**** H C****. Private Pyle, why is your footlocker unlocked?
Private Gomer Pyle : Sir, I don’t know, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman : Private Pyle, if there is one thing in this world that I hate, it is an unlocked footlocker! You know that don’t you?
Private Gomer Pyle : Sir, yes, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman : If it wasn’t for d***heads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?
Private Gomer Pyle : Sir, no, sir.

Over the past several years our island paradise, while consistently rated as among the safest towns in all of Florida, has experienced a number of vehicle thefts.  Cars, golf carts, and bicycles have been taken, for fun and profit, from Key Biscayne homes. For the first three months of 2021, there have been five auto thefts, according to police. Some of the vehicles have been found and returned, some have not.  Most worrying, several of the thefts have instigated potentially dangerous pursuits.  The very real potential exists that one of these thefts will eventually result in a serious injury or worse.

Two patterns have emerged throughout these thefts: a common contributory factor and a common reaction by many Key Biscayne citizens.  The contributory factor, police say: every stolen vehicle has not been properly secured.  Every stolen car has had its keys left inside.  Every stolen golf cart has still had the default, universal ignition installed.  And every stolen bicycle has been unlocked.  The second pattern? Demands that we need more police and the need to employ more effective methods, sometimes accompanied by unfounded allegations of poor service by government agencies.

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Key Biscayne has idyllic beaches, inviting waters, and verdant parks.  It is, however, populated and visited by people.  For a number of reasons some people, occasionally or regularly based on their motivations and circumstances, steal.  This has been the case for all of human existence, within every civilization, and across every era.  There is no perfect remedy for this thieving impulse within human nature.  There are, however, two approaches that can minimize incidents of theft.  One has few if any negative implications for our society and the other has potentially significant negative societal implications.

The first approach is better citizenship.  In this context this consists of conscientiously securing your belongings and teaching your children to do so as well.  Most thefts are crimes of opportunity — fewer opportunities mean fewer crimes.  Fewer crimes make us all safer and reduce the need for confrontations, pursuits, and other dangerous consequences of crimes.  Using locks and securing keys is both effective and inexpensive.  Plus no one is significantly inconvenienced or worse by a locked car, golf cart, or bike.

The second approach is stronger enforcement.  With respect to reducing theft this could consist of more police patrols, more intrusive checkpoints, and harsher punishments for thieves.  Stronger enforcement can be very expensive.  It should be expected to inconvenience lots of people — almost all of whom are not thieves.  It can also create the perception that a community is unsafe or unwelcoming — while in fact Key Biscayne is neither.

If your objective is to create the perception that Key Biscayne Village Government is broken and needs change, and your weapon of choice is complaining about crime, misspending, and conflicts of interest, it takes chutzpah because the facts are not on your side.  The fact is that what we should all focus on and work together towards is better citizenship.  Godspeed.

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