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Beating the Homeless Problem

A new idea, and then an even better one.

By Hobbes  |  December 3, 2013

A startling news report tells us of an innovative new way to address the problem of vagrants polluting otherwise attractive city streets:

In the past two weeks residents in Hawaii noticed what appeared to be a crazed individual carrying a sledgehammer through the streets of Honolulu, a state lawmaker looking to rid the city of homeless people by targeting their belongings.

State Representative Tom Brower (D) is currently dedicated to dealing out his own personal brand of “justice” by seeking out homeless people and destroying their possessions. Brower estimates that he has used the sledgehammer to smash at least 30 shopping carts, rendering them useless by bashing in the front wheels. 

"I got tired of telling people I’m trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets," he told Hawaii News Now. "I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them."

Even more startling than this aggressive approach to the problem, the likes of which haven't been seen in probably 70 years: Rep. Brower, as (surprisingly) noted in the article, is a Democrat.

That elementary precaution speaks well of Rep. Brower's prudence and good judgment; were he a Republican, he'd probably be in Federal prison today for civil rights violations of those poor, law-abiding bums.  As a Democrat, though, he was given the opportunity to avoid all punishment by a suitable expression of repentance.  A later news article closes the case:

By Wednesday, he was changing his tune. "I guess I shouldn't use the sledgehammer, because it's a really loaded image," the legislator, 48, told ... TV stations.

That's a shame, because Brower actually does belong behind bars - and not just for criminal stupidity and ignorance, though there's that too.

What's Wrong With The Law?

Think through Brower's approach.  He realized that most homeless people schlep 'round their belongings in shopping carts.  He reasoned that if he smashed up the shopping carts, they wouldn't be able to keep their stuff.  They'd either have to find a real home, or at least move to somewhere outside his district.

This has the feel of logic, and the virtue of being a proactive and inexpensive way to deal with the problem.  So far, so good.

But Brower utterly failed to realize a key fact, which not only put him on the wrong side of the law but also offered a far more effective and permanent solution to his bum infestation:  The shopping carts do not belong to the homeless.

Think about it: Do vagrants pay for the shopping carts they use?  Do they order them online, or buy them used from the manager of the local Piggly Wiggly?

Of course not; they swipe them from the parking lot at night.  The shopping carts are stolen property, still owned by the store whose name is plainly embossed on their handles.

By smashing them up, Rep. Brower is committing the crime of destroying evidence - the evidence of theft, or at the least of receiving stolen goods.

Once you realize that, the solution presents itself: Arrest and prosecute the tramps for theft.  That certainly gets them off the street.

Now, the jail time for what's probably petty theft is not likely to be much over a month, so that would seem like a temporary solution.  Hawaii, however, has an advantage: It's an island.

Longstanding legal precedent allows states to send prisoners to prisons in other states.  Doing this simply requires an agreement between the states in question, and almost all states have them.  Not all prisons have room, of course, but there are no shortage of privately-operated accredited prisons happy to accept convicted criminals for a fee.

All Hawaii has to do is to examine its list of interstate prison compacts and find one where there's some room and a willing warden.  Convict the bums of theft; remand them to prison; put them on a prison flight to jail on the mainland; and wait for their sentence to expire.

In due time, they'll once again breathe the free air, infesting the streets - of Minnesota or Nebraska.  It'll be a long time before they make their way back to Waikiki Beach!

Now that would be a solution - and even a legal one, complying with due process and the rule of law.  Instead, Rep. Brower (D) decided to take the law into his own hands.

I Am The Law!

But then, he's only following the example of his President, who seems to believe that he can wave the wand and change overnight what insurance policies can be sold to whom, when, where, and for what price, without the slightest input from Congress.

Maybe Rep. Brower should run for President?  He clearly has the right mental perspective.