Dec 6, 2021Liked by Darrell Owens

Excellent column- count me as a new subscriber, and we're really in need of this sanity. But if I may, I'd like to dissect this and perhaps add some not always agreeable insight, based on my own experience as someone that has ties and history to all sides of this equation. I have the Silicon Valley career and a police record after having grown up in working class East Bay to prove it.

Tech is very much taking recruitment from underprivileged seriously. Damn near every company is not only taking serious effort by not only recruiting, but staffing DEI personnel at very high levels of the executive tree. This has kicked into a much higher gear over the past 2-3 years, and it absolutely not a flash in the pan. Personally, there are very few things as satisfying as bringing on young people from Oakland, Concord, Antioch, or Vallejo. If Pittsburg High is on your resume, you go to the very top of the pile, full stop. And we make sure that they get the extra attention to succeed. I was one of these youths once, and I probably went nearly 15 years without seeing someone from my background in tech. This situation has improved dramatically.

Burglaries and property theft are not merely a case of LV being robbed. They're a symptom of a larger deterioration in the social contract. It's extremely frightening when it happens to your or others around you. And people stopped reporting these crimes in SF and Oakland years ago, because there's just no point; what will it accomplish except for you spending more of your time dealing with something you want to forget about in the first place.

These also have been affecting lower income areas disproportionally for the past several years, with zero response by city authorities, throughout SF and the East Bay. They've been dealing with egregious stuff happening next to their family homes for years. And if perpetrators are indeed caught and even convicted, they damn near never get charged with anything remotely resembling a felony. People want action. They want to feel safe, and are tired of being told that the homeless junkies that are literally lighting their hillsides on fire in between robbing their homes in Pittsburg have more rights and recourse than the homeowners do. Which I'm hearing happen over and over again.

The last real crime wave of the 90s was much uglier than people seem to remember. Gangs, nasty drugs, and guns were far more prolific than they are now. And the reaction was incredibly heavy-handed. Felonies were given out like candy by judges who were almost gleeful to be doing so, and the socioeconomic disparity was beyond appalling. Time and time again, the poor were put away for many years, while the mainly white but certainly rich got off with slaps on the wrists. Side note: when talking about the East Bay, there's a very high percentage of poor whites that are cutoff from privilege as well. Current discussions of equity are sometimes very vocal in deliberately not including them in the conversation, and that's flat-out cruel, not to mention short sighted.

But the harsh reactions had a deterrent effect. Those people that went away? They knew exactly what they were doing, and what a penalty would look like. Eventually, everyone got the picture. It simply was not worth doing, however bad your current situation was. Today, the young people that are now committing these property crimes are doing so under the impression that the penalty is *worth* the action. No one around them is being penalized with real time, they don't see repercussions, and they payoff can be quick and easy.

Frank Somerville, a Bay Area journalism legend and all around lovely human being, will likely never be on local network broadcast TV again because he dared to speak out on one of society's grossest and flagrant examples of institutionalized racism that exists today. And this man is speaking from the perspective of a father realizing that if affected, one of his daughters will be memorialized while the other will be ignored.

As a white father with an insanely mixed race large family, contemplating this makes me feel like I'm being stabbed. Society will judge my darker skinned family members differently from the rest because of its sick bigotry. And what sticks out to me is just how little we've actually come in addressing this; in 2002, Oakland saw 113 murders, 98% POC. None were noted by name. No compassion whatsoever. And yet Laci Peterson was, *is still*, obsessed over by national media. And I gotta stop right there. I just lost my train of thought because contemplating this is beyond what I'm able to articulate after letting my head go there. I need to go for a walk.

Expand full comment

To the degree there is a crime wave, I think focusing on the kind of crime poor folks commit again is missing the plot. Corporate crime soared to levels in the last 5 years beyond anything I've ever seen. And I worked for Arthur Andersen in 2002 (for readers under 30, look up "Enron Scandal")

Crypto? A Bernie Madoff style pyramid scheme happening in plain view. South Dakota is openly running an operation for hiding money that has made the Cayman Islands look like a lemonade stand. Rules in general have, for most of white america, become optional - something you do out of civic duty, but are only enforced if you make someone powerful mad enough at you.

Of course, you see this in more everyday matters. I live near a fairly busy intersection in SF, where drivers have basically started running the red whenever they like, as they've realized there is zero risk of being ticketed for traffic violations. You see it with people grabbing handicapped parking spaces without a permit whenever the hell they feel like it.

This goes pre-pandemic, but I wonder if people being isolated and behind screens more and more is making them see the rest of humanity as less human, because the root of all of this - wanton selfishness, seems to be the real trend that is happening.

In a sense, it is what happens when Anomie settles into the body politic. People just seem to be out of fucks to give, especially in CA, where "Got mine, fuck you" is the state slogan.

Expand full comment

You say that a philanthropist should start a charity that offers jobs to young people in disinvested neighborhoods. Are there such charities already? If someone reading this wants to financially support such a program, who should they give money to?

What should the government do?

Expand full comment

Thank you Darell. This is the desperately needed sanity that we need to bring to our conversation about crime.

Expand full comment

Great post Darrel. Would love to see some analysis of what could possibly done, what programs exist, what kinds of programs tend to work, if you plan to continue to explore this topic.

Expand full comment

Would you be in favor of a public jobs program of some sort? I wonder how many of those jobs could be created for every police salary/pension not funded.

You also mentioned the anti poverty non profits not being particularly effective. Any deeper thoughts on why that is?

Expand full comment