Pirates, Crooks and Protection Money

            When Jean and Scott sailed away from the port at Mumbai, they had no idea that they wouldn’t set foot on land again.  Within days of sailing, their yacht was captured by a group of Somalia pirates.  While pirates negotiated with the U.S. Navy, the others aboard the yacht killed Jean and Scott, along with their two friends, Phyllis and Bob; the reasons still are unclear.

            Jean and Scott had set off to sail around the world as missionaries with a store of bibles onboard.  On their website, the couple wrote that there next stop was going to be Djibouti and then up the Red Sea and, they wrote, then to Turkey where they wanted to get some repair work done on the boat.

            The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jack Lang, called for the international community to take a stronger and unified response to piracy and terrorism.  According to the article in the French newspaper Le Monde 90% of pirates captured are released as there is no place to put them on trial.

            Lang estimated that the pirates still hold about 800 hostages and 30 ships and that there are about 1500 pirates operating around Somalia.  He believes that the pirates are led by six to seven commanders, some known to officials.

            It would seem that the clear response would be to focus on the leaders, bringing them to justice, working for the release of the existing hostages.  The other step is to establish the means to take away the rewards and benefits of committing a crime and make it too dangerous to try.  Right now, pirates can hold ships, cargos and crews for ransom and get a high return with relatively little risk.      

            However, there are always those who disagree.  Another representative from the EU, a socialist, wants to see a special court system set up, possibly in Tunisia with a dedicated prison for piracy.  The real difference is that the same representative believes that piracy can be solved by incentives, meaning money, to improve the economy of the area. 

            The idea is the equivalent of running a store in an urban neighborhood and agreeing to pay the local gang protection money to be left alone.  It is as if we believe that no one has moral values or character unless they have a thick wallet.  Certainly, economics is a factor in crime, but hardly the sole factor and definitely not the main cause.  How many rich people have committed scams in order to become even richer, never to have the time to spend all the money stolen, such as Bernie Madoff?  And how many poor people work hard every day to stay afloat and never turn to crime as a solution.  That is not to say that a good person might not steal to feed his family, but that is the extreme case.

            The point is that people, poor or rich, make decisions and those decisions affect the lives of others when they choose to steal, rob, kidnap or kill.  That is something that should never be tolerated.  Whether it is violent street crimes, piracy or even terrorism, we need to stand on principles and refuse to tolerate criminal behavior.  That should go for property crime as well, including the wealthy who prey on others through pyramid schemes or other scams.

The solution may not exist.  There will not be a world without evil and without those willing to commit it.  But the most effective response will be a multi-faceted approach, one that looks at underlying causes, but one that also reinforces our laws with tough penalties.  Paying protection money, or artificially creating a Somali economy, will only reinforce what has been done in the past to reap that reward.  In Somali, and other locations, having the international community donate money or even supplies typically backfires as those with the strong arm take control and keep the benefits for themselves.

Creating respect for the laws of the world often means creating fear of what will happen if someone fails to comply.  We need to create an environment where crime in fact does not pay.

1 comment:

  1. sounds "mafia-esque" to me. Who shall fund these prisons and incentives, especially in this economy? I agree with you- strict and undeniable punishment for such behavior.