4Drug-Free Zones Keep Dealers Close to Schools
Whatever your stance on narcotics might be, you probably agree that they're not for children. So even if you lived in a libertarian utopia where drugs could be sold on every corner, there would still be places you'd want to see them banned -- schools, libraries, playgrounds, etc. Nobody wants to see 9-year-olds winning black tar heroin at Chuck E. Cheese's.
If you stare into the abyss for too long, the mouse will stare back.
Lawmakers agreed with this, of course, and implemented laws imposing harsh additional penalties for anyone caught selling drugs near schools and other places frequented by kids. If you can't stop them from selling drugs completely, you can at least encourage them to do it far away from the little ones. Makes sense. In theory, anyway.
The problem is that in order to differentiate a "drugs BAD" area from the surrounding "drugs kinda not OK, we guess" areas, someone needs to set actual borders of the drug-free zone. The particular border distance the authorities picked was 1,000 feet from the premises, which sounds pretty reasonable on paper ... until you think about just how many schools and other kid-frequented zones there are in any urban area. Each of those is itself a "don't sell drugs here" zone, plus a ring of about three city blocks in every direction. At which point you will probably find yourself on the border of another drug-free zone. When you map out all of the intersecting circles, basically every city is one giant, pulsating mass of overlapping drug-free zones.
Leaving drug dealers very few options.
Which, of course, completely defeats the purpose. The dealers couldn't abide by the zoning rules even if they wanted to, because the zones are freaking everywhere. Researchers in New Jersey have concluded that only 9 percent of drug deals are committed outside a school zone's drug-free limits. In Massachusetts, 80 percent of drug deals happen within a zone. Not because the dealers are all selling to kids, but because the zones are unavoidable (only 1 percent of those sales involved a minor). So they're right back where they were before: The penalty for selling right on the baseball diamond is the same as selling anywhere else, so what does it matter?
In the eyes of the law, this is identical to that needle-strewn alley behind your local Safeway.
Yet, if you go to voters and suggest shrinking the drug-free zone to make them work as a deterrent again, you know exactly what you're going to hear in response: "What, you want the drug dealers to be allowed to sell closer to our children? Why don't you just personally inject every baby with crack?"
"Studies are showing that 90 percent of babies have chronic confidence issues."
3Red Light Cameras Are Killing People
Nobody likes a red light camera when they get a ticket in the mail, but most people admit that the apparatus does serve a function in the grand scheme of things. After all, a lot of people take a "If a cop didn't see it, I didn't do it" approach to obeying traffic laws, so it helps to have the unblinking eye of the law standing guard at busy intersections to make sure people slow down and pay attention.
A lidless eye, wreathed in flame.
The cameras are effective as hell, too: The city of Los Angeles maintains that red light cameras have reduced accidents by 34 per-freaking-cent.
Reporter David Goldstein of CBS, however, thought that this claim carried the fragrant whiff of bullshit. He started asking around for the LAPD's data on the subject, only to be promptly stonewalled and charged $500 for the info.
"Meet us in the alley behind Chick-fil-A and bring your silly hat."
Goldstein coughed up the dough and found that the cops had a good reason for their uncooperativeness. The data differed slightly from the "Holy shit, like a third less accidents everywhere!" stance the city officially maintained -- in fact, accidents were actually up at 20 of the 32 intersections studied.
Turns out the LAPD's numbers only counted a reduction in crashes that were caused by people running red lights and getting side-reamed. They completely ignored the fresh epidemic of rear-end collisions caused by people slamming on their breaks to avoid a camera-issued ticket.
Totes worth it.
Studies of red light cameras in Melbourne, Australia and Virginia came up with similar findings. The Aussies concluded that red light cameras had "no demonstrated value," and the Virginia Transportation Research Council tied a 27 percent rise in accidents to the cameras. But the largest nail in the coffin comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They compared traffic fatalities in cities with and without red light camera (RLC) programs:
"... cities using RLCs had an estimated higher rate of red light running fatalities, specifically 25 percent, than cities that did not use RLCs in the period 'after' cameras were used."
The Machine Uprising has officially begun.
This 25 percent increase in perished commuters is, naturally, completely unrelated to the $1 million in red light camera fines that even a small city can rack up annually. Equally coincidental is the fact that, like we've pointed out before, some cities have been caught decreasing the time of their yellow lights before installing red light cameras.
We guess it all makes sense, if you're a really hardened bureaucrat -- after all, a citizen could die in a crash any day, so the local government might as well liberate him from his excess cash while they still can.