Could Superhero Phoenix Jones Be America's Crime Cure?

Costumed crime fighter Phoenix Jones was arrested for assault by the Seattle police after attempting to break up a crowd in downtown Seattle Sunday night. Jones and his associates Red Dragon and Buster Dough form the Rain City Superhero Movement which has been patrolling Seattle since January.

The Rain City squad is not the lone costumed cadre in the movement. Other vigilantes have been sighted in New York, Orlando, and Salt Lake City using similar non-violent means. They break up fights, they thwart drug deals, and they even deliver Taco Bell to the hungry.

It would be easy to lump the superheroes in with the Occupy Wall Street movement and Tea Party’s lashings out against Washington as reactions to the state of the nation. But the superheroes aren’t a protest movement. They just want to help out. A video of Jones calling 911 after failing to dissuade a drunk driver from driving earlier this January is telling of their support for the system.

The “hero movement” underscores the limits of government solutions to public problems and the need for civic involvement. Take off the masks and plastic six packs and they are just everyday citizens who care about their community.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Jones outlined what he believes to be the limits to the police and the need for civic involvement. His methods are debatable, but the need for effective community action is real.

With current austerity measures, government has been increasingly limited. Cash-strapped City of Topeka, Kansas, has had to stop prosecuting many domestic batteries because of lack of funds, relying on county-level enforcement to protect citizens.

Beyond fiscal problems, there are limits to what law officers can or should do. As with the obesity epidemic, the achievement gap, and teen pregnancy, the strongest crime deterrent, though, is likely to be found in strong homes and community involvement. Would we want officers stationed at every street corner? Would we want educational assistants following underachieving high schoolers home at night and monitoring their studying habits?

Government can play a role in solving these epidemics: Teaching proper nutrition in schools; providing balanced diets to school children; and tutoring struggling students. But at some point, it is left to the citizens, caped or in shirt and tie, to decide report suspected drunk drivers and create a community where crime is not tolerated.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons