Sunday, January 13, 2008

Not all infractions are created equal

Try to imagine what it would be like in your neighborhood if someone were arrested every time a law was broken. I’m talking every single person who speeds (even one mile over the limit), every person who drinks and drives (why do bars even have parking lots??), takes a puff off a left-handed ciggy, slips their dog off the leash, drops an empty water bottle on the sidewalk or fails to pick up poop; every driver who rolls instead of full stopping at an intersection or fails to use their turn signal or wear their seatbelt; all the people who put a dollar on the pool table or a fiver in the football add-em-up. Imagine all those folks busted and tossed in the clinker. Would you know any of them? Would you _be one of them?

Now imagine the size police force it would take to catch all these criminals in the act. Then imagine the local court system having to process all of these miscreants. And then imagine the uproar such a crackdown would cause --closely followed by the resulting PR nightmare.

Clearly, there are levels of lawbreaking that a society pretty much has to tolerate to some extent. If the authorities spend all their time pursuing the law-breakers listed above, they would not have a lot of time to deal with robbers, corruption and other serious crime. Here on South Padre many infractions are dealt with on a complaint-driven basis. If your dog poops repeatedly in my yard, I might complain. And if I am willing to take the time and effort to file and sign an official complaint, the city is obligated to deal with that complaint in some form or fashion.

There are a few things that irritate me -- I have even been accused of whining about them in this very blog. People hanging out in lucky 777 parlors who choose to part with a few bucks in a manner that may or may not be legal (obviously there is some gray area here) are not one of the things that irritate me. I guess these businesses must not irritate most other people either, or lots more folks would be willing to sign their names to official complaints, instead of just whining about them (see the latest discussion on SPIF.) Are these (face it, mostly older patrons) bothering you? Are they stealing from you? Are the business owners taking up scarce space that other more legit businesses are waiting in line for? Are their employees outsiders who spend their ill-gotten tips in the next county?

If a crime, this one is victimless.
Think about that next time you notice you’ve hit 45 mph just south of Whataburger.


Blogger Unknown said...

I remember the first time I visited SPI. When I saw these 777 joints, I thought gambling must be legal. When I found out that in many cases slot payouts are illegal, I assumed that south Texas must have some of the most corrupt officials in the nation. I have lived in big cities. Corruption can be found everywhere. However, the disregard for the law here is arrogant !! As I have stated before, what is one to think when they don't even try to hide the businesses but proclaim them with large signs??? Have I witnessed large payoffs?? No, I do not chose to go there. However, people all over town talk about it! Even if SPI is squeaky clean, these places are up and down the Valley. About a year ago their was a crackdown. Brownsville is having one now. When the raids expanded to Isabelle, do you recall how many high ranking names were linked to them?? Ok, so Isabelle had at least one, with links to public officials, yet the ones here on the Island are all legit? Speaking for a second only in generalities, the links between illegal gambling and organized crime.....or petty crime for that matter are pretty well established.
Perhaps we should get back to your examples. Should the police pull over everyone who gets into a car after they leave a bar? Perhaps not, though it has been done before. However, if a police station sat across the street from a bar...I mean, if it did, and the police could clearly see wobbly legged people leaving that bar?? If
those police did nothing, ever? What would the public think about that? Standing in line around town you can hear people talk about their big ( illegal) winnings. Sometimes, they mention seeing public officials, so called leading citizens etc. What are those who don't break this law to think? Huge signs, everyone knows where at least one is. Again, I don't wish to state that their is any corruption on SPI in regards to these businesses. Only that there is certainly the appearance. Also, for a town that can tie itself in knots over a color palette, I hardly think THESE businesses give the town a good image.

Finally two last notes before I end this. One, I sincerely wish I had never mentioned this in SPIF.
Second, although I haven't been to these businesses, I know gambling from the inside. I ,personally, like to gamble. I have been to Vegas and many other such places. More to the point I used to work for the gaming industry, though it was many years ago. I have been inside the game pits, around the hidden cameras, a little bit of all of it. Perhaps, the real problem is that like many other states Texas drives itself crazy over gambling. I have never understood how Lotteries, dog tracks,etc is "good" gambling and yet casinos are bad. If they brought it out legally in a limited form (2-5 casinos or whatever form they might choose,) they could more closely monitor it. ( They could then shut down the 777 joints once and for all) I have little doubt Texas will have casinos some day. I see they are trying to back door them now. A move is afoot to bring slots into dog tracks. Seems innocent. Has been done in other states. Tends to turn to full casinos in 10-15 years. You see,the big boys in gambling have it planned out.

Oh, one other thing you touched on Sandy that I would like to see SPIF or some forum or blog somewhere tackle. You mentioned a lot of what you seemed to think of as at worst petty crime. Things people do. I sometimes work a bit with children and teens. The question has been raised by them. What laws IS it ok to not obey? I agree, their are indeed things we all do. However, as kids and teens are good at knowing BS when they smell it, where IS the dividing line these days?? I am afraid I have a hard time keeping up with that myself at times. Our federal government chooses to not enforce or only selectively so its immigration laws. Every city seems to do that too. I can't have a fake ID, and neither can the average teenager but someone from a foreign country can? It's a felony if I do it because I was born here but if I weren't it would be winked at? Torture is against the law unless the good guys do it? A male teacher who sleeps with a cheerleader gets 15 years but a sexy blond female teacher may get probation? Does anyone get confused when all infractions are not equal? If anyone does tackle trying to explain it please use simple and plain language. I hate it when everyone understands but me.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hmm, interesting rant there, Ray, and most of it makes sense to me ... except for a variety of reasons, we just don't want to turn SPI into a gambling Mecca like Biloxi, Reno, Shreveport, or Vegas.

I thought Sandy Feet had a very good point about crimes having no victims. Since when it is a citizen's job to get into that, except in cases of suicide? Are we going to check for commies next?

But many people miss the whole purpose about laws. Many think is something is illegal, then it should automatically be judged as so. Nothing is further from the truth.

The reason is because there are standards of evidence about what can be used in a court of law. It is completely discretionary as to whether enforcement would be done, because of the high hurdle required to prosecute a crime. That is exactly why people are let of with a warning.

Example: let's say you were obviously speeding on SPI. The cop pulls you over. You contest the ticket. The radar gun is then subject to calibration and even a field test. If the radar gun was not perfectly tuned, you would get off on that charge of speeding, even though it was patently illegal. it is true, some radar guns have clocked palm trees going 30 MPH before!

The standard of evidence regarding illegal gambling, the issue on Jason's forum, is even more complicated. There must be credible evidence that money was in fact exchanged in a manner that would be considered illegal under Texas law. That means that an informant must testify, whether a cop, citizen, or stool pigeon. The defense gets to argue that the witness was not credible and the testimony should be discounted or even removed from the docket. It happens many times.

Much has been written about South Texas and its corruption and "judicial hell-holes" but the fact is that the law is applied in a manner in discriminatory fashion. If the enforcement officer want to write a ticket he or she will. If a court wants to prosecute it, it will. You will quickly learn that a law is simply a tool to use and not some Platonic ideal that is absolute. -sam

2:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sam, if you don't want SPI to be the next Biloxi, I tell you plainly you need to fight gambling in all forms in the state of Texas every chance you get. I have been an insider and I know insiders in the legal gaming business and I tell you short term they love these 777 joints. It will make people except gaming by degrees. If it isn't fought vigorously we will have casinos here. As for me, though I wouldn't work for those people again, I personally don't care if the casinos do or don't come, just have your eyes open.

As to the costs of policing what may or may not be illegal gambling I'm sure the money could be found if they want to. We manage to get people in to make certain that bars don't sell to minors right? I would think we could send someone in 2-4 times a year with a few rolls of quarters or whatever to see if payouts are made. After all, their are only 4-5 777 joints on the island, right?
Or we can do nothing and when the majority of first the county and then the state sees nothing wrong with a few slots? Just friends and neighbors right, and a victimless crime anyway. Won't we then all agree to "just a couple" of legal casinos?

5:34 AM  

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