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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lurking: Let’s eliminate the thought police

Some in Minneapolis want to see the lurking ordinance repealed and I support them. St. Paul should follow suit.

The Council on Crime and Justice reports that 800 people have been arrested or cited for lurking since 2003, which means about 200 per year for four years, which means about four people per week. About one in four of those people were white. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that about 26 percent of the arrests are of whites and 58 percent are of blacks.)

The council also states: “The racial disparity in the justice system originates predominantly at 'the first point of contact' with law enforcement. While racial disparity may widen subsequent to arrest, this change is not significant when compared to the disparity that occurs at arrest. African Americans accounted for 72.3 percent of low level offense arrests, although there is little evidence that this is due to differential rates of involvement in criminal activities."

I’m not convinced that rounding up four people a week in the Twin Cities is making a significant inroad on crime and I would challenge the police and prosecutors to demonstrate that it is.

Even without any racial disparity, the idea that people can be arrested for standing around thinking about something bad is repellent. The Minnesota Judicial Council says equal treatment of minorities is a goal – repealing this useless ordinance would be a good place to start.

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