Curtist Sliwa is an activist and the founder of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer anti-crime organization. Founded in 1979 in New York, the group now leads unarmed safety patrols and spearheads educational programs in over 140 cities around the world. In 1992, Sliwa was ambushed by two gunmen from inside a stolen taxi in New York; he managed to escape but was shot repeatedly. John A. Gotti, son of the late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, was charged with conspiring to murder Sliwa, but the case ended in a mistrial. Sliwa is currently a conservative radio talk show host.
Question: Why do we have a better handle on crime now than we did 30 years ago?
Curtis Sliwa: The reason why we have a much better handle on crime now is because we have trained the police to be police, not social workers. It’s not their job, not educated, so it’s not their job. To a degree not even role models. They have to be like Sergeant Joe Friday out there. They don’t have time to sit down and have a cup of coffee and nosh on what is taking place because we have turned the police department into a reactive agency. They’re not proactive, so they’re racing around going from one 911 call to another 911 call. Now that is not the kind of policing I like, but that is just the way it is. So if the cops are going to be responsive they can’t always sit down and try to figure who is right and who is wrong, so their job is lock everyone up, take them into the hoosegow, the cop shop, and let a judge figure it out at arraignment who should be released, who should be incarcerated, who should be given bail, who should be remanded to jail. That's good policing when you have limited resource and with the recessionary times we’re in and no longer any stimulus money to keep cops on the payroll with less cops it enables you to do more, so I think that is why at this point we’re still able to keep the crime down significantly in a time of recession, but we can only hold out for so much time as we have less and less police and more and more people taking advantage of the criminal opportunities that are before them.
Question: What role does education play in combating crime?
Curtis Sliwa: Absolutely. The better educated you are it just means you have an opportunity to become a more heeled criminal, a white collar criminal with a number two pencil and rip off everybody by going to Wall Street where the banks are too big to fail and then we bail you out, so instead of doing triple life without parole for sticking a gun in somebody’s back and robbing $25 you rob them for $25 million—but you know something? At least you can read the Wall Street Journal right? Is that an advantage in life? No, in reality it’s the basic ability to take care of yourself and for those that you have responsibilities of, so learning what life is about. Now nowadays the penchant is to have you earn an academic diploma. Most people that I have ever met—including myself because I don’t have a diploma, I got kicked out of high school—I’m not going to qualify for an academic diploma. They’re not going to go onto college. They’re not going to get a BS or whatever that is or in fact a magna cum laude because some of them are going to major in having a .44 magnum in their hand, so they need to be taught skills. It’s called technical high school. It’s called in middle school finding out if their adaptability is in the academic world or it’s that they’re thoracic and that they like to work with their hands and they’d like to learn a trade and giving them the opportunity to do what it is that they desire to do. Even charter schools nowadays: "Charter schools is the answer. You know it’s more focused. It’s more disciplined. It gives the child a better opportunity in the belly of the beast." There is not one charter school in America that is devoted to teaching technical skills, so is everybody going to be a white collar worker? Is everybody going to go to Wall Street and become a thief in a financial institution or a bank and then tell us how they should reward themselves with a bonus because they worked so hard robbing us morning, noon and night with derivatives and subprime mortgages and giving out loans to people who have no income, no jobs, no credit? I know that's wrong. You know that is wrong, but hey, they’re smarter than us. They’re brighter than us. They went to Harvard. They went to Yale. They went to the London School of Economics. They went to Wharton, the business school. Uffa to all of them. Send them to GITMO. Lock them up. That’s right. Since we’re clearing them out of terrorists, Al-Qaeda, nutniks and Taliban wannabes why don’t we put all the white collar criminals over there in GITMO?
Recorded July 8, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller