Arkansas Town Declares Quasi-Martial Law to Fight Property Crime
The Guns In America symposium is still a couple of weeks away, but I thought I would highlight this story now: The mayor and chief of police of Paragould, AR announced this week that in order to better fight crime the police will be soon be performing regular street patrols with SWAT gear and AR-15s. Anyone and everyone they encounter walking outside will be stopped and questioned as to their reasons for being out and about. “They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” said Mayor Mike Gaskill. “But they’re going to have to prove it.”
Anticipating the inevitable accusations of all of this being amazingly unconstitutional, Gaskill was ready with a reasoned legal defense – albeit a really terrible one:
“To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” he said. “Well, I’ve got statistical reasons that say I’ve got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you’re doing out. Then when I add that people are scared…then that gives us even more [reason] to ask why are you here and what are you doing in this area.” In a development that will shock no one, Gaskill noted that he did not bother consulting an attorney before announcing the plan.
Adding to the controversy is the wrinkle that the patrols will focus on neighborhoods where crimes are most likely to occur. These neighborhoods tend to be poorer and populated by more minorities than neighborhoods that will get an initial pass on dog walking.
This plan will most assuredly be struck down prior to January 1, when it is scheduled to commence. If not, courts will quickly make mincemeat of any arrests garnered by this bizarre martial-law style of governance.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this story is that Paragould actually does seem to have a crime rate that needs addressing. Violent crime seems under control (at least as compared to national averages), but property crimes are actually pretty high – significantly higher than in nearby communities, in fact. I would be very interested to see some reporting on what steps the community has taken in the past to deter crime. Have they focused at all on education, drug rehabilitation or community outreach for the poorer neighborhoods, or has the town traditionally taken the Rambo-esque, Good Guys vs. Perps approach?
As I say, we do have a few more weeks before the symposium. But I find myself wondering what the introduction of SWAT-attired patrols carrying AR-15s would have on a community whose crime problems seem to be strictly property-related. The arguments from many of the pro-gun writers I’ve been reading these past few days suggest that it will actually make criminals less likely to obtain or use firearms of their own; I am not so certain the opposite would not be the case. Of course, the whole plan is so constitutionally buggered that we’ll never know.