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Our view: Getting tough on criminals

One good way to reduce crime is to make life difficult for people who break the law.

That’s the approach that the city of DeKalb is taking, and here’s hoping their exercise of authority has some effect.

First, there are hundreds of people out there who have not paid fines or skipped court dates for violating DeKalb city ordinances, DeKalb City Attorney Dean Frieders has said.

After sending out a letter reminding people of the problem, the city will try to have a warrant issued for their arrest. Then the individuals could have the opportunity to explain to a judge why they haven’t complied with the law.

This sounds about right. People with outstanding fines or missed court dates would have a final opportunity to turn themselves in and work things out with the city. But if they continue to ignore their responsibility under the law, they could end up in jail. Isn’t that where people expect to wind up if they ignore the law long enough?

The city also has stepped up the fines for having a vehicle towed and is finding more reasons to tow vehicles away.

Police can have a tow truck haul away vehicles of people engaged in unlawful behavior – think DUI or drug trafficking – and impound the vehicles until the owners pay a $500 fee to reclaim them.

The city has towed about 80 vehicles connected to illegal activity in a little more than 40 days, Police Chief Gene Lowery has said.

That certainly also makes it more difficult for lawbreakers. It’s tough to commit street crimes without any way to cruise the streets.

Maybe if they plan to break the law again, they’ll choose to do so somewhere other than DeKalb.

Finally, the city’s much-maligned new housing bureau could also be having an effect. The bureau has opened more than 30 cases involving crime in rental properties and the eviction process has begun in at least six, according to a report from City Housing Coordinator Carl Leoni to the City Council this week.

Turns out absentee landlords weren’t always attuned to the fact that their properties had become home to squatters and drug activity, or were the site of multiple police calls.  

It’s good that the city is stepping up to take action. The fines and arrest threats might seem draconian to some, but when a community is trying to cut down on crime, it can’t also be tolerant of those who flout the law.

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