Perspective

Successful Crimes

Crime is big business in the U.S. It is bigger than the billions of dollars that are made in the drug traffic every year and the astronomical revenues from prostitution, gambling, and armed robbery. (Robbers alone are estimated to cost us $355 thousand a day.) Even honest citizens gel a piece of the action: law enforcement professionals, judges and lawyers, criminologists, and building contractors eager to satisfy the demand for new prison construction—where would they all be if we all suddenly started behaving ourselves?

Even after they retire from business, some criminals continue to profit from their career. The Chicago Tribune recently disclosed that Aladena Fratianno has received more than $662,000 from the Federal government as reimbursement for testimony against his former colleagues. Last year, he had the effrontery to complain that he had lost money on the deal, but Fratianno has already recouped his losses by coauthoring a best-seller on—what else?—organized crime. As Dryden observed in a somewhat different con text, "Successful crimes alone are justified."

Until recently, the only class getting nothing out of the business were the ordinary Americans who are the victims of crime. In the past few years, however, 35 states have established victims' compensation programs. Most of them provide some form of reimbursement for medical expenses or lost property. Several have followed...

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