Steven Greenhut reports on the hype about a crime wave in California parks—which is actually not a crime wave at all but a new push against minor infractions like poolside horeseplay and starfish collecting:
The real news is that there are surprisingly few serious crimes at California's state parks. Mostly, the advocates for higher fees want more "boots on the ground" to catch average folks who might have a bonfire and drink some wine. Park advocates also champion the volunteer park busybodies who confront park-goers who aren't following the rules. Perhaps this is indicative of the new California. Why should the lifestyle at beaches, mountains and lakes be any different from any other aspect of life in this highly taxed, carefully monitored and absurdly regulated state?
I might as well declare that a crime wave has descended on my neighborhood, given that some neighbors regularly drive 5 mph over the limit, jaywalk, drink beer while they walk the dog and make a little noise during pool parties. Somehow, in the spirit of freedom, I prefer to deal with these piddling matters on my own (mainly by ignoring them) rather than call for the hiring of additional police officers to patrol the street, hand out tickets and snoop in our yards.
Last time I went rafting on the American River, we all had to wait while a surly park ranger searched our stuff to make sure no one was bringing along any beer. Is this really necessary in every aspect of our lives? This is more a story of the criminalization of recreational behavior and of the security-state mentality – which sees more police, more cameras, more searches and more rules as the answer to everything, lest anyone do anything wrong.
While the crime wave is new, the panic around minor safety risks and lewd acts out in the wilderness is an old one. Thank goodness somebody is finally standing up for law and order in the woods.