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Poverty doesn't cause crime people do!

Despite tons of evidence to the contrary, a member of the United States Congress, who also happens to sit on a congressional subcommittee on crime, believes crime is caused by "desperation brought on by joblessness, poverty and community disintegration." Representative John Conyers of Michigan recently claimed that crime multiplies when "individuals feel that stealing, mugging or selling dope is an acceptable means of survival."

So, according to Conyers, society is to blame. An affluent society. A cruel, exploitative, upper-class society which possesses only indifference to its "marginal and disadvantaged people" is to blame.

How utterly strange, and how totally contradictory to the known facts.

When I interviewed President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt in Cairo in the spring of 1976, and talked to the editors of major newspapers, to government ministers, business leaders, and other officials as well, I asked about crime. Egypt is a very poor nation. Millions of poverty-stricken, jobless, hopeless people jammed together in squalid slums, existing amid human and animal excrement, without sanitary facilities of any kind, present such a pitiful sight to a visitor from the affluent United States that it is almost impossible to believe.

Strangely, though stricken with huge economic problems, Egypt has a very low crime rate. It is much safer to walk on the streets of Cairo wearing your watch and carrying your wallet than on the streets of most major U.S. cities, including the nation's capital.

I interviewed Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. Despite the widely known terrorist activities in the area — the bombs exploding in Zion Square, the West Bank protests, the Arab strikes and demonstrations — Jerusalem (including the Old City inhabited mostly by Arabs) is a safe city at night. One may stroll freely through all parts of the city with a feeling of security, unlike citizens living in Houston, Detroit, or New York.

Conversely, study the crime patterns of some of the totally socialized nations of Scandinavia, where living standards and personal affluence have soared. So has the crime rate!

Studies into the personal lives of those convicted of serious crimes simply do not bear out the conclusions of Representative Conyers, whether he serves on a congressional subcommittee on crime or not. Only 11 percent of convicted criminals behind bars come from a poverty-level background. Repeatedly, police are amazed to see vicious crimes being committed by the so-called "good guys" in society — the "quiet kid next door" who comes from a middle-class or upper-class home.

Drug-related crimes are said to amount to approximately 40% of crimes involving profit (burglary, bunco, etc.), and a very significant percentage of drug users come from a social background well above the poverty level.

Crime in the United States has risen almost exactly proportionate to affluence! During the poverty-stricken years of the Great Depression — when the unemployment rate hovered at the 25% level — the American crime rate declined steadily in spite of adverse economic conditions. There was crime, yes, but more on the order of the sensationalized gangland crimes of Capone, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Machine Gun Kelly" and others.

Being "poor" is not synonymous with being "crooked."

Just as poor people can keep clean, so the "disadvantaged" classes can remain morally responsible. Crime is not a disease; it is not an anonymous, faceless "consequence of a system." It is the result of a nation turning its collective and individual back on the most basic of all laws, the Ten Commandments — laws that say, among other things, "Thou shalt not steal," and "Thou shalt not kill"!

Criminals are made, not born. Any child taught to respect the laws of God will have little difficulty respecting the laws of man. But the destruction of the home throughout much of the Western world and the abrogation of high moral standards in the church, the home and the school have given rise to morally substandard, often cruel and unfeeling young people who do not know the simple difference between right and wrong.

Until parents recognize the awesome responsibility of properly instilling in their children a sense of discipline, respect for the rights and property of others, love and sense of duty toward God, country and fellowman, our present crime wave will only grow worse.