By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
When a criminal hurts himself why do we celebrate?
Placeholder Image
Having reported community news for 28 years, I've heard just about everything. A journalist - especially one who reports on crimes - can become just as cynical and calloused as a police officer. Whether it's the newsroom or the police station, news of a criminal being maimed in the commission of a crime is often accompanied by a fair amount of chuckling.

While I marvel at the stupidity of some, I've never received pleasure in hearing about the misfortunes of others during the commission of a crime. Case in point: Last week a Ceres burglary suspect fled police and stepped into an empty pool when he thought he'd be walking across a lawn. He experienced a compound fracture of his ankle which I am sure must have been excruciating.

Also, in December a home invasion robbery in rural Hickman resulted in one suspect shot to death and the arrests of five more. Bloggers applauded the homeowner's response with a gun with a certain relish. Don't get me wrong - I like stories where the victim prevails. I admire people who stand up to defend themselves and loved ones. But it seems rather sick to celebrate the woes of the law-breaker.

There is a fine line there, I realize. While I am not tickled when misfortune strikes a criminal, I'm like most people who quickly dispense the thought "serves them right." It's the hallmark of a law-abiding citizen who knows there are consequences to actions. For example, if you speed and drive recklessly, expect to die in a crash. Break into someone's house to steal their stuff and expect a Smith & Wesson in your face. Murder someone and expect to forfeit your own life. The healthy respect of cause and effect is a great motivator in keeping people in line with the law.

Still, I often listen to the rant of others who advocate their own brand of justice. An uncle of mine believes even the ordinary car thief should be shot, pointing out that horse thieves were punished by lynch mobs or vigilantes over a century ago and he notes that a car has replaced the horse. He believes that a good solution to gangs is to collect them into a single stadium, arm them to the teeth and let them have a shoot-out to the death with the last man standing.

I get his point: Let the evil scum of earth - those who have no regard for life and property - do themselves in and spare the rest of us. While I am whole-heatedly in favor of punishing criminals fairly, I don't think anyone truly believes the answer is in wholesale slaughtering.

I'm not sure what the answer is to the growing trend of thieving, gang-banging and violence other than doing a better job of connecting students to the "why" of education; and being tough on crime (yes, that includes capital punishment). It's also going to require better parenting, which cannot be legislated.

While not the same scenario, I compare those who delight in a criminal suffering maiming, to those sick photographs taken 80 to 100 years ago of smiling members of a lynch mob beneath the swinging corpse of a young black man hanging from a rope in the Deep South.

No, don't expect a young man who has no hope and no fear to ever respect life. It's probably not going to happen. Rather than relishing in a tragedy that befalls a criminal, we should mourn the actions of a person who has the potential to be a force for good rather than a force for evil.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at