Criminal Self-Concepts

As a Middle East journalist, I’ve always envied the ability of autocratic nations to crack down hard on criminals. Such tactics can give comfort to the civilian population—but they can also provoke a backlash that causes just as many problems as they solve.

But not in Santa Barbara; not this time. Operation Gator Roll was a success. From Chris Meagher’s excellent reporting—and the coordinated effort on behalf of Central Coast police—the Eastside gang is going to have plenty of time to ponder their criminal activity behind bars.

But this is Santa Barbara, and no Independent write-in would be complete without echoing a quote Hunter S. Thompson included in his book Hells Angels, about the criminal motorcycle gang:

“No more self-defeating device could be discovered than the one society has developed in dealing with the criminal. It proclaims his career in such loud and dramatic forms that both he and the community accept the judgment as a fixed description. He becomes conscious of himself as a criminal, and the community expects him to live up to his reputation, and will not credit him if he does not live up to it.”—Frank Tannenbaum, Crime and the Community

Within a decade most of these Eastside gangsters will be back on the streets. While we cage them, what plans do we have to convince them they are not animals?

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