If theft is the most sincere form of flattery, lots of people in Houston and Chickasaw County are a lot more flattered than they want to be.
There are people in this city and county who stay busy stealing other people’s property. They break into homes, shops, schools, even churches.
As Roger Miller put it so eloquently: “They know every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around…”
I think theft is mostly drug-related. Those who don’t have enough money to support their drug habit will steal anything that’s not nailed down, then sell it to pay for their next fix.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at last week’s circuit court docket. Look at the number of theft-related cases, and the number of drug related cases.
And remember, the folks on that docket are just the ones who got caught. That’s only a small percentage of actual offenders.
Like an iceberg. you see only the top 10 percent above the surface, not the 90 percent below it out of sight.
Sometimes the loot is recovered in pawnshops. Sometimes it’s recovered from third parties who profess to be shocked when the cops or deputies tell them the handgun they bought for $50 was actually stolen.
Many of the stolen vehicles, however, meet a different fate. They become “born again.” They’re run through chop shops to be cut up for parts, or repainted and sent back into the world in altered states, with changed VIN numbers the second time around.
Those vehicles may continue life elsewhere with new owners who don’t ask awkward questions about the vehicle’s pedigree.
They say virtue is its own reward.
Of course, so is vice.
In defense of greed, stealing land, labor, and personal property is an American pastime. It’s been a way of life for some people ever since their ancestors set foot on Plymouth Rock.
The earliest explorers came here to find something worth grabbing and grabbed it. White men stole the nation piecemeal from the Indians, plying them with beads, trinkets and worthless treaties.
We hoodooed the French into the Louisiana Purchase, and bought Alaska from the Russians for a song.
As the nation expanded, each new wave of immigrants had members who figured out ways to steal from the ones who were there before.
Businessmen were especially glad to see the new arrivals. They were cheap labor to drive rail spikes, drill mines, build cities and work 16 hours a day in sweatshops for 20 cents an hour.
Somewhere along the line, the motto of many folks became “gimme mine.” That means, of course, “gimme yours.”
In this county, I think the thefts of vehicles and many other things could be cut sharply if the thief had to be locked up with the owner, and five of the owner’s meanest friends, for a day.
This happy cell party would be convened if the stolen items weren’t returned to the owner in the condition they were in before being stolen.
If the owner didn’t have five mean friends, perhaps several could be chosen, much like choosing a jury. The court would provide the hoe handles free of charge.
There are countries that practice far rougher justice than what I’ve mentioned. In those countries, a thief has his hand cut off. I suspect authorities don’t waste perfectly good anesthesia on the criminal when the sentence is carried out.
I suspect there aren’t many repeat offenders.
That’s a harsh system, but I suspect it would reduce the costs of our justice system that costs taxpayers – read you and me – untold dollars each year.
That system catches offenders and sentences them -- or at least that’s the goal.
Of course, the world is divided into two large categories -- the caught and the uncaught. But that’s another column.
When the “caught” are placed in jail, our tax dollars feed, house and medicate them until they’re released. And of course, do the same thing all over with repeat offenders.
Judicially-sanctioned amputation as punishment is probably too barbaric a system for most Americans to consider.
But locking up a thief, a victim, and a bunch of the victim’s closest friends isn’t.
With such a system, the phrase “gimme mine” would have a whole new meaning when spoken by the victim.
I can almost hear the words now, echoing off the cell walls of the Chickasaw County Jail.
“Gimme mine – right out of yo’ hide!”