Crime is down, crime is rampant – In defiance of God, justice, peace

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 17, Spring 2000
By Ardeth Platte, O.P.

The crime statistics quoted in this article are from the United States,but we believe that the trends commented on are endemic in the developed world.

You have heard it said that crime is down, but I say to you that crime is soaring out of control. What is crime? What crime is down? What and whose laws are implemented for crime statistics?

In these past months the publicly announced FBI reports state that crime has taken a downward trend eight years in a row. Most states from New York to California have experienced a sharp drop in homicides and violent crimes. Therefore, crime is down, right?

These reports sent me scurrying to dictionaries to investigate the definitions of crime. They seemed to define the word in similar fashion. Crime is a wrong act that is against the law; an act or commission of an act that is forbidden, or the omission of a duty that is commanded by public law that makes an offender liable to punishment by that law; sin; a grave offence especially against morality. A wrong act means not right, bad, unjust, unlawful, an injustice, an injury. Sin is the breaking of the law of God deliberately or an immoral act of wrong doing.

These definitions and interpretations give rise to the conclusions, reflections, themes and writings in this issue. Crime is certainly not down; rather it is massive, running rampantly out of control.

Poverty is crime

· that the ‘have nots’, 80% of the world’s population, have access to only 15% of the world’s wealth and resources while the ‘haves’, 20% of the Earth’s population, consume 85% of all the world’s resources. That is global injustice. That is real crime.

· that one and a third billion persons, or one-fifth of the world, live on less than a dollar a day while the two hundred most wealthy own a trillion dollars more than the combined income of two billion people. That is real crime.

· Crime includes the injury incurred by the IMF/World Bank demands on a country in obtaining loans and the mortgaging of the poorest countries’ futures in repayment of the debt.

Yes, crime is homeless­ness, unemploy­ment, famine, sweatshop wages and conditions, environ­mental classism and racism, and inequality in education, health care, obtaining basic necessities.

Militarism in policy and practice is crime

· the illegal and immoral use of depleted uranium in Vieques, Iraq, Kosovo, affecting civilian populations and Earth for years to come.

· current military spending, a US mobilised for war in these years after the cold war is over and no major enemy threatens, wasting resources needed by billions of people for basic necessities.

· the positioning of our nuclear carriers and weapons around the world with an increase in the number of cities and peoples targeted for mass murder.

· selling and transporting weapons around the world, including to oppressive dictator governments who abuse and torture their poorest people.

· sale, export, supplying, financing weapons to 39 of the 42 countries at war.

· conducting and financing the School of the Americas – under whatever name – and numerous institutions of this nature for training military personnel from other countries in torture and repressive measures, squelching self-determination, empowerment, and the true democracy.

· the United States’ new wave of exploitation and domination of outer space for fighting wars.

Yes, it is a crime that the weapons business has become the cornerstone of our foreign and domestic economic policy to preserve industrial jobs and profit large corporations with military contracts while disregarding the costs and the consequences – to all people, to all of the earth.

Crime is defiance of God’s laws, International laws, the World Court decision of 1996, Space and ABM treaties, and the disregard for the commitments to hammer swords into ploughshares.

Yes, it is a crime that the weapons business has become the cornerstone of our foreign and domestic economic policy to preserve industrial jobs and profit large corporations with military contracts while disregarding the costs and the consequences – to all people, to all of the earth.

Environmental/ecological destruction is crime

· perpetuating and continuing lifestyles that cause global warming, attacks on the ozone layer, deforestation, depletion of Earth, contamination of land, air, water and outer space.

· producing nuclear waste without the knowledge of safely containing it. It is endangering millions of people and Earth by shipment of it through 43 states to a stolen site, Yucca Mountain, the sacred Western Shoshone Indian land.

· shipping MOX (mixed oxide) across states and the Great Lakes from Los Alamos to Chalk River, Canada to be used experimentally as fuel in nuclear power reactors.

Yes, crime is our deafness, lack of compassion and non-response to the voices and cries of trees, plants, animals, climate, land, sky – all of this magnificent creation.

The criminal (in)justice system is crime

· The massive, punitive prison system itself incarcerating two million persons in the millennium, at a time when crime continues its downward spiral.

· filling every new jail and prison with mentally unstable people, persons made poorest, those drug-addicted, thus enhancing a larger domestic growth industry rather than providing treatment and developmental assistance for persons in need.

· use of capital punishment in a majority of states though evidence mounts that the system used to determine death row victims is not infallible in accuracy or justice. The US remains the only industrialised nation using the death penalty. It proves to be neither a deterrent nor cost effective.

Yes, discrimination abounds regarding who ends up with more grave consequences – so much based on race, class, circumstances, whose and which law is implemented, who does or does not count in society. Crime is the very system designed to deal with crime.


There is no arrest, prosecution, trial, conviction, incarceration for the malefactors of these major and massive systemic and massive injustices (or acts of wrong doing) or sin in these days.

No data exists regarding white collar crime, government and corporate crime, war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace.

Crime has become a political device to protect the interests of those in power and the richest landowners.

Governments and major corporate entities carry out business as usual, occasionally appearing in civil courts away from public scrutiny.

The personal crimes get detailed daily in the press, but the systemic injustices and social sins of the nation remain the most censored stories.

The challenge continues in the new millennium to unmask the crime and faithfully wage direct action as healing of relationships among victims, offenders and communities. Peace in our day.

Ardeth Platt O.P. is a Catholic sister of the Dominican order living at Jonah House, Baltimore, from whose newsletter ‘Year One’ this article is reproduced.

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