As a crime deterrent, roadblocks don’t work. Let’s just start there. And while we can’t argue laws that are on the books, I can, as a citizen, take issue with how they are enforced. You’re required by law to have a valid driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle. You are also required to have at least liability insurance. YES! Not arguing that point (I’ll get into how much of a racket the insurance game is on another day). I’m also not going to argue the consequences. You break a standing law, you take the punishment.
Recently, citizens have had some loud and passionate reactions to daily roadblocks/checkpoints set up by the Jackson Police Department all over the city. Some see it as a welcome attempt to curb the recent surge in crime. Others, like me, see it as something different – an attack on impoverished people. My own personal testimony can attest to this idea.
I went for the better part of a decade with a suspended license and no insurance! It started as a routine speeding ticket – an unexpected expense that came at the wrong time. I didn’t pay it, thus incurring even more fees. It wasn’t because I was “trifling” or “defiant” as some people have called the unlicensed or uninsured. It was because I simply couldn’t afford to.
I’d continue to get stopped. I’d get more tickets for a suspended license. I’d get arrested, go to court, and get more fines. I’d repeat that process again and again until I owed over $5,000 in fines and court costs. Of course, I couldn’t get insurance because I didn’t have a valid license so I got hit with those fines as well.
I could not get out of the deep hole I’d dug. No matter how many hours I worked, no matter how many wages I tried to set aside. The courts would put me on payment plans, and I’d inevitably get behind on those as well. I still had bills, living expenses, and three kids to take care of. Luckily, I eventually got my license reinstated. (Had to take out a bank loan to do it, which put me in more debt.)
My question is, once those fines pile up for the impoverished, how are they supposed to make the money to pay them? By driving to a job right? What other options are there? I see folks applauding the surge of checkpoints, but there are thousands among us who aren’t “irresponsibly” driving around. They are just trying to get by until they can become legal drivers.
At a recent press conference, JPD announced the T.A.T. initiative (Ticket & Tow). Citizens are being arrested, and their vehicles towed on the spot if they don’t have the required documents. Here’s the rub: if you tow the vehicles, how do they get to work to make the money to get the vehicle out of the impound? It all reeks of rich, white, conservatives’ condescending attempt to force Black people to “budget” their money.
I’ve said all along, history and data will prove me right. Every time. You can’t “overpolice” your way out of a crime problem. I know it’s popular to praise Madison and Rankin for their “tough on crime” stance. And I know they have many in the Metro-area believing that. But their “tough on crime” stance is basically a “tough on Blacks with Hinds County tags” stance. They’re stopping as many as they can, with or without probable cause, and seeing what happens. It’s simply playing the numbers game. Shooting fish in a barrel. And that isn’t police work.
I just moderated a panel (https://fb.watch/bbRkg1mrKU/) with three of the leading Black criminologists in the nation. All three said it had been years since they had heard of the use of roadblocks as a crime deterrent. And colleagues I speak with in larger cities say that roadblocks are practically nonexistent in their communities. Ironically, while these checkpoints were going on, two more people were shot in the city. The “quick fix” of stopping cars gives the appearance of crime fighting when in reality it’s going to thrust impoverished people deeper into debt … while still not addressing the root causes of crime.