Wednesday, February 8, 2012

While It Might Be Illegal, Do You Really Want To Pay To Enforce It?

CNN had a piece yesterday that had a line in it I just can't pass up commenting about. The story was about a law in New York City that bans idling vehicles in an effort to improve air quality in the Big Apple. The bit I thought was interesting was this line:
Passing laws is one thing; enforcing them is another.
That is something that legislators and city council people here in Texas would also do well to keep in mind. There are plenty of well intentioned laws on the books. However, just because there is a law on the books for something does not mean that the problem the law is to address is going to go away. In the CNN piece the story quotes NYC's Mayor with this:
"Keep in mind, enforcement costs money; the people that enforce have plenty of other things to do. (The) police department's first job is going to be worrying about more serious things."
And that is something to keep in mind; enforcing laws cost money, lots of money oftentimes. In today's fiscally lean times a community needs to ask itself where their limited law enforcement dollars are best used. Was the best way to solve this problem criminalizing the behavior and then expecting the police to "do something" about it?

In the sleepy little burg where I work, we have this law on the books:
Sec. 16-84. Riding wild horses on street.
Whosoever in this city shall ride or cause to be ridden along any street or alley, or upon the public square any wild or unbroken horse, mare, gelding or mule, knowing it at the same time to be wild and unbroken shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. (Ord. No. 91-32, § I, 5-28-91)
Even though we're in Texas, thankfully we aren't overwhelmed with unbroken horseback riding on the city streets. This is probably a good thing because if it was, we would have to make a decision about where our enforcement dollars are best spent. I don't know about you but I can think of things I'd rather tackle with our police officers than this.

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