Election Fraud and Trickery By Nice People Still Fraud and Trickery
Vote fraud may change, inject, or erase two or three votes in every hundred. That’s my guess. I wish it were hardly ever.
Maybe that’s not enough to lead many voters to doubt official results. Maybe confidence in the electoral system is maintained even when we lack confidence in the winners we opposed. And maybe the wrongness is in both directions over the years, so the effects are evened out. It’s still a problem and we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug. This isn’t about what the Russians did. That’s serious, but domestic tipping of the scales is roughly as harmful.
One Child, Good Money
Decades ago, a party operative, who grew up poor, said that as a girl she was paid “7 cents for every vote” she cast. She said she “made good money” doing it. She was instructed that “if anyone objected” she was “to just leave”.
Pollsite workers are commonly party members. If she was sent to one-party strongholds, the likelihood is that only members of that party were staffing and (if volunteers) watching the pollsites. That’s because, if the district with that pollsite is largely hopeless for the other party, the other party has higher priorities somewhere else. So, if she simply left right away, objections wouldn’t get far. In one city, police officers stand in pollsites in case of trouble, but even if a cop saw everything it’s unlikely anyone would interrogate the child, search her for name lists, or take her to central booking. She’d simply leave, presumably satisfied that what grownups do is just boring anyway but in reality heading to another pollsite to earn her fee.
If you’re robbed at knifepoint and you hear “your money or your life”, you hand over your wallet (the police advise most people to hand it over and stay alive), and you don’t have a permanent beef with the cops (and most people don’t), you likely report the armed robbery to the police. Most people would. But fraudulent voting like the seven-cent case probably doesn’t get reported. The money isn’t known about and it just looks childishly cute. Even if an adult were to try it without being too obvious, especially a retired adult, they could look befuddled with a hint of Alzheimer’s and be gently guided into realizing a mistake. These kinds of cases don’t get counted in statistics. They’d be hard to prosecute. Intent would be hard to prove against someone who was easily discouraged and didn’t vote, especially if they’re a child, especially in front of a jury. You don’t prosecute a child who stole bubble gum from a candy store even if you can prove legal intent. You leave petty theft bubble gum to the parents. You leave vote fraud to the nice poll workers. They’ll straighten it out without making a Federal case out of it. No statistics.
Voting Twice by Error
In a recount I watched, some people who had voted on absentee ballots had also voted in person. Comments from tables where observers found it also usually included a voter’s advanced age. I inferred that, in their opinions, no prosecution would follow. It was enough simply not to count their duplicate ballots.
Voting by Spouses
Many married couples are older and in many one spouse is relatively infirm and would have difficulty filling out a ballot. I was told that spouses often vote for each other.
Even where spousal voting is illegal, in court one spouse may forbid the other from testifying against the first because spousal communications are privileged or confidential, it’s hardly likely a jury would convict for spouses taking care of each other, prosecutors usually dislike cases they’ll lose, and losing that kind of case would be bad publicity that might increase that form of fraud. So, spousal voting probably doesn’t get reported, even when it’s done at a pollsite and poll workers see it.
I doubt that spouses tend to vote alike. In many elections, a gender gap is exploited by candidates. Spousal vote fraud therefore likely changes outcomes.
Voting in Wrong-Party Primaries
In pre-electronic days, large numbers voted in primaries but on the wrong party’s ballots. Only rerun elections revealed the problem, because that’s when the voter lists were pruned by party registration. People complained that they were being blocked from voting when they had been voting that way for 20 years.
Dead People Voting
A member of a local political family (I forgot what state but not New York and this may have been rural) became a journalist and wrote a book. He went to a cemetery to copy down names from tombstones. The local mafia showed up and told him to do what he’s got to do and they’ll make sure no one bothers him. He published a story that a certain number of dead people had voted, I think 37 in his small community.
Funeral homes, according to a decades-old rumor, are a source of voter fraud. I’ll hypothesize how. Someone dies and the aggrieved family arrives to make arrangements. The funeral home’s staff helpfully asks the family if they’d like the funeral home to take care of telling government bureaucracies that the deceased has passed on, so no one will pretend to be that dead person and commit financial crimes that could drain the estate. That would include cancelling the voter registration of the deceased. The family is relieved of that worry. The funeral home then might sit on that request until after the next election day, and meanwhile share the list of expected cancellations from all of their customers with whichever party the funeral home owner favors.
City Board Gets It Wrong
Wrong Ballots Distributed
When absentee ballots could decide who’d win, it turned out during a count of paper that the municipal board of elections had sent out the wrong ballots, ballots for another district. During the count, we heard, another vote for Chris. Again, again, and again. Chris’s running in another part of town. We, from one campaign, were told that the person in the board’s offices who sent the ballots was in our opponent’s party and was sorry about the error and that the board said it would not assign her to that task again. But, that year, the damage was done. We lost. And, having lost, we then needed to tell our supporters why, so hopefully we’ll keep their support for the next time. Our campaign decided to publicly attribute the loss to a different issue. Maybe it’s not politically wise, if you’re going to run again, to complain about the board of elections that will be conducting the next election you’re running in. Especially when the board of elections is explicitly run by the two political parties.
I watched as a bystander at a recount as a board official at one table repeatedly held up each paper ballot and displayed both sides so the candidates’ representatives at that table could see it. At another table, another board official was less demonstrative, not showing both sides. I pointed this out to a lawyer for our side. He said that’s okay, because the under-demonstrative official was on our side.
Identity Theft Made Easy
I have a post office box, thus a mailing address. I put that on my registration form, which solicits it if different. The board did not put them in its voter list. That’s the board’s standard practice, according to its staff. Almost none of the mail about elections or legislative newsletters ever showed up for me. Mail to where I slept was supposed to be forwarded to my box number, but I think the board of elections labeled the mail to prevent forwarding and the newsletters were likely treated as junk mail and not forwarded. So, voter cards almost never got into my hands. I assume they were being returned, discarded, or stolen. I often had to vote on affidavit ballots, which are not counted except in rare recounts. Partly out of concern for identity theft, I eventually took myself off the voter rolls, even though I’m a political junkie and a member of demographics more likely to vote and, if the government can be persuaded to hold an election, I like to encourage it. But being unregistered, not being allowed to vote, has practical value.
Defying Statistics to Look Good
One rumor in New York City that I wish someone would test is that a recount always produces a wider gap than the original count did, and in the same direction. That’s statistically not credible, and almost certainly illegal, but boards are likely motivated to preserve their credibility for initial results by discouraging recounts, and, except for one case where the candidate was probably joking, I don’t hear of any that are requested if they aren’t free because the original margin was slim.
Our Side Must Vote, Discourage Other Side
A lawyer said that the military requires its officers to vote, but merely encourages enlisted members to vote, and is not entirely encouraging of the latter, because getting the ballot may require going to a more distant part of a base when military members often find their entire days scheduled in full. Requiring military officers but not enlisted members to vote tends to skew election outcomes towards Republicans, despite the proportion of enlisted members who are Black being above the national average. It is probably illegal to require anyone to vote, but it would be up to the hesitating officer to prove that the order is unlawful, when it’s an order which could be a test of loyalty by obedience, need not be written, and need not have a stated justification, never mind refusing being a bad and financially costly career move.
In , letters went out. Election Day was Tuesday. The letters said a lot of people were expected to show up. So voting would be in shifts. Republicans would vote on Tuesday, Democrats on Wednesday. Democrats scrambled like fighter planes. The letters were fake news, really fake news. Everyone votes on Tuesday.
Ballot Boxes and Voting Machines
I was told that down South there were “nigger” voting machines, which would be more likely to break down. Maybe machines didn’t get rotated between locations, so the breakdowns would disenfranchise the same groups of voters year after year and it would be so routine in districts with lots of other problems that complaints from hope-drained citizens would not get shrill. I often used to hear (up North) vote totals issued during election day; those totals were compiled from machines that had broken down. This was not rare at all. I think pre-closing-hour totals are no longer compiled from machines.
In the s or early s, someone told me she had been a poll watcher in Albany, New York, then a one-party stronghold, where a party official made sure people voted for the majority party, since he had paid each voter five dollars. His method was to stand next to the voting booth while the voters went inside and voted by pulling levers. One party’s lever mechanisms were well-worn from years of tradition, so he expected to hear only dull thuds. If he heard a sharp click, regardless of which lever it was from, it had to be for some other party and he demanded his money back from the voter. I don’t know if he made the demand at the pollsite or waited till he saw the voter later, but he’d hardly spend time standing next to the machine unless it was his first time or the method helped his party’s candidates win.
A Federal poverty worker told me in the s that in Virginia or West Virginia (I forgot which) someone who didn’t vote as told did not get a ride back home from the poll. He didn’t describe how they determined who voted the wrong way.
Former President Carter spoke, before running for that office, of watching a local leader, opposed to Carter’s side and seen by Carter, reaching into a ballot box and seeing how someone had voted.
When I voted in a New York City school board election, where the rules on preferential voting were a bit complicated, an official told me I had to hand the ballot to him. He opened the sheet (it was not sealed) and his eyes looked like he was reading it before he inserted the ballot into the box.
Forging a Party Choice
Two big department stores were just a block apart. If we wanted to register voters who would be Democrats, and we probably did, we did our registration tabling near the lower-priced store. Once, back in our office, someone proposed marking forms to be Democratic if no party had been checkmarked. I asked about using a differently colored ink (maybe someone had verbal authorization). No, the same color, I was told. I refused to mark any of them.
Registered For the Wrong Address
A voter list showed only about 25 voters per block (I think per side of the street) on an especially pricey street for a few miles where most homes were in apartment houses, with duplexes and such but still going up quite a few floors. The local people are likely wealthy, wealth generally correlates with higher education, and people with more education are more likely to register to vote. The size of the local population is likely several times the number who registered. A campaign manager told me the shortage of local registrations is because many people in that neighborhood think Arkansas (or wherever) needs someone in their party more than New York does, so they register with their family in Arkansas. I don’t know about other states, but New York, last I heard, allowed registering from a primary residence only.
In the only case I know of, a New York voter had registered not from his primary home but from his girlfriend’s home, where he also stayed every week but not as much as at his home. No one said he had registered from both addresses or voted twice. He was an annoyance to a county party machine, for backing some insurgents, being a campaign manager for at least one. He was convicted of registering from the wrong address, the conviction was upheld on appeal, he went to prison, and it took years to get that changed. The law is probably still on the books.
I helped with a recount by listing voters who could be challenged as having registered from other than a primary residence, because their addresses were office buildings or mail drops (businesses where someone can rent a mailing address that often is disguised to look like an ordinary address). It is sometimes legal, but still unlikely, to be living in office buildings. Someone could be homeless (people who live in New York City but are homeless may still register to vote) or be a member of a live-in building engineer’s family, for example. A newer office tower in Rockefeller Center had an engineer’s apartment, I was told by the messenger center. A third situation was described in a book on personal security, which advised that executives register to vote from their offices because the voter lists are public, but that’s likely illegal. I once saw that a then-former Mayor, now dead, had registered from an office building, unless the name was just a coincidence, but he was well-known for working for a law firm that I think was in that building. Much the same was true of a then-former police commissioner.
Around the time of Bush v. Gore, a New York City newspaper published a story about tens of thousands of voters who were registered in both New York and Florida. That could be about moving and not being purged afterwards, and state laws may vary, but it eases fraudulent voting. One could anticipate the same problem in other pairs of states.
One party, at least in , judging from news reports, is being blamed for most of the voter fraud in the country. Maybe, and that would sadden me, partly since I tend to like that party’s positions. But recently the President wanted a commission to look at voter fraud and all the states were asked to submit their voter lists, which I think are available commercially but never mind, but states in both parties let it be known that they didn’t care to hand up their lists. If one party has little voter fraud and yet doesn’t want the Federal government comparing voter lists, could it be that even the cleaner party has something to hide? like lots of illegal duplicate interstate registrations even for the cleaner party in many states, maybe? If comparing lists led to purges and purges reduced a state’s political leverage and power, and enough states are not convinced that the result will even out (if all states lose the same percentage of voters then there’s no change in power but probably no one is predicting equality of loss), then states will resist mass purges and resisting earlier is safer, regardless of law.
Friendly Fraud in the Booth
A man went to vote, in a district where an insurgent candidate was opposing what we called the (party) machine candidate. Someone was in the booth helping lots of voters vote, using the legal authority for so-called “friends”. I heard Rhode Island may have abolished voting by “friends”. Now, voting by friend is helpful to people with disabilities who wouldn’t be able to vote on their own. Maybe someone with a disability can bring a friend to help them. We want to let people vote, so that’s okay. But someone being a “friend” to everyone who shows up at one pollsite and probably doesn’t even know most of their names until they sit at the list of voters is probably pulling our leg. This time, the helper pulled the lever for the machine candidate in a local race. The voter objected. The helper said, “‘Who are you going to vote for!?’” The voter said, “‘My mother!’” The helper stepped aside. The mother was the insurgent. The son was her campaign manager. That kind of voting through a “friend” had to be blatantly illegal, but it probably wasn’t about to get prosecuted.
Candidates with Same Name
She lost. She told me afterwards she thought the election was stolen, because lots of people told her that they had voted for her. On that ballot was a down-ballot race with a candidate with the same last name as the mother’s. (On election day, where one party’s candidates are listed in a column, one position is the top of the ticket and everything else is down-ballot.) We had prepared a campaign flyer to unconfuse the voters, clarifying who she was, but it wasn’t enough. Confusing voters about the names is not illegal, but the effect is that some votes are miscounted relative to voters’ intent.
A case the law allowed was in a state where office-holders for six positions were from one party, those from another six were from the other party, and seven had the same last name. Someone must have been popular and voters assumed they knew the family for the seven.
Crime Inducing Votes
The night before an election, a political operative showed up in a poor Black neighborhood. What do you need? He heard that the road needs paving. He stole a highway department truck, drove back down, and paved the road. The next day, he came back and offered free rides to the pollsite. I don’t know which election law applies to that.
Petition fraud is not voter fraud, but the main difference is it’s earlier. Petitions help put candidates on the ballots.
New York City community school boards were elected for years (they no longer exist). To get on the ballot, one got petitions signed and delivered them by the deadline. Challenges had to be filed within three days of the filing, not three days of the deadline. Here’s the method I’m told was often used: The candidate would get signatures on one page. That wouldn’t be enough, not by a long shot, so she’d staple blank petition sheets behind the first page and file the whole set at least three days before the deadline without a public announcement. The board official receiving the set would not flip past the first page. The candidate and her supporters would essentially say nothing for three days. After that time, the candidate would announce her candidacy, knowing it was now too late for anyone to challenge her petitions.
For another election, someone challenging petitions doubted a petition signature belonging to someone she knew. That person had signed but did so when the candidate’s name was not visible. The doubter, looking later, found a crease on the petition. Based on the conversation between the doubter and her friend, it appeared that someone had folded the top of the petition out of view and had lied about which candidate was on the petition.
I’ve heard of petitions being adjudged invalid because large numbers of voters had apparently signed in alphabetical order. It also happens with the same ink color and handwriting. Our term for that was “kitchen table petitioning”.
In a case of similar handwriting, in court expert testimony could be needed, but that’s costly and both sides can get experts, what we call battling experts. In election cases, I’m not sure if either side usually bothers with bringing experts at all.
One election lawyer generally advised against challenging petitions in New York City, because, he said The New York Times refuses to endorse candidates who do so, on the ground that, according to the paper, whom to vote for should be left to voters. There have been issues for years that the election laws are so technical that they amount to an incumbents’ protection act. The Wall Street Journal long ago published an embarrassing comparison of how rarely incumbents ever lost around here to how often incumbents lost in the Soviet Union.
In one race, I was told that 40,000 pieces of mail had failed to be delivered in three Zip codes. A lot of election mail is mailed in time for delivery on the weekend or the Monday before a Tuesday election, so, if postal workers, a supervisor, or an upper manager wants to make the mail piece a useless waste of massive postage, all the post office has to do is delay it by a day or three and then deliver it right afterwards. In another race, in another county, the candidate told me a letter carrier had advised her not to mail and pay postage but instead to give him the mail and he’d deliver it himself, because otherwise the post office would sit on it. She did as advised and it worked. This is decades after the post office switched to offering civil service careers instead of political patronage. Probably enough postal workers live relatively locally to be influenced by local races.
One family member of a candidate stopped handing out literature one day and was not willing to resume. A bus had pulled up and some young kids had gotten out, slapping sticks into their palms. A man who was evidently a leader saw a police officer and got the young guys back onto the bus. The lit distributor recognized the man as belonging to a union. The candidate was opposing the political machine’s preference.
I got a phone call at a campaign headquarters from an iraten man who threatened to put of us in the hospital. He was from an opposing campaign and he said one of our people had harassed a woman distributing literature for their campaign. I gather the harassment was something serious, not just a minor annoyance. I probably was noncommittal, not knowing anything about the incident or even if it ever occurred, and likely offered to take a message. I hung up, was alone, and called the campaign manager. Should I call the police? No, she said, which was a little surprising since we’re not against the police, but police often hestitate to investigate these things too deeply since both sides tend to allege bad things and some of it is made up. Even a slight police investigation would likely inflame the opposing campaign into who-knows-what just to even the score and destroy our chances at the ballot box. It’s all about the ballot box. The morning progresses uneventfully. I'm typing. The guy who called shows up. I didn’t know what he looks like but that’s his voice. He insists on talking to the candidate, who is present but is just a few feet out of sight. The campaign manager doesn’t say the candidate is here but offers to take a message. He insists. She insists thhat if he doesn’t want to leave a message he can leave. I remain seated so as not to inflame him, but I watch. I'm not sure what I can do, not having the requisite training, but I hope I can defuse the suituaiton. In response to her comment that he can leave, he calms down a bit and states his concern, I think this time omitting the part about hospitalizing anyone. I think she denies that the event occurred. He leaves. Sometimne later, possibly the same day, I see a major well-known local politician talking to a guywhom I’ve already met and who works for a union, possibly an organizer. He’d been nice to me; from what I can figure out, I had a reputation as a productive worker and maybe he’d like me to work where he works. I was cordial to him but didn’t pursue the matter and don’t know what union he’s with, if any. Now, the politician is telling him that he can’t hassle people that way. I don’t see the guy’s face, as he’s facing the other way, but I see his shoulders slump. It probably isn’t good to be criticized by this particular politician. I don’t hear about any more thuggery of any kind in that campaign.
We do overhear one of our opponents, the one we were most worried about beating us, in a restaurant, chewing out his staff for incompetence. If he wants to criticize his staff in public where our people, whom he doesn’t recognize, can gather intelligence about his campaign’s troubles, that’s his business. He has a right to free speech even against his own interests. He lost. He came in last of four. Our candidate won.
In another campaign, I hear vaguely of a threat to murder someone on our side. I don’t take it seriously. Whatever a murder would accomplish for any campaign, mere injury sufficient to hospitalize someone is just as effective and less risky. The police look into broken bones, but they look into murders more closely. In yet another campaign, we had several opponents, and we were concerned about one of them flying off a handle (to use the technical term, doing something “crazy”), so we hired guards for the candidate’s home and the campaign headquarters. The headquarters guard was working two guard jobs and badly needed sleep, but I was in the headquarters anyway. Nothing happened, other than that I got my work done.
Candidates Seeking Corruption Don’t Want Witnesses
I volunteered in many campaigns. I stopped. Campaigns and other nonprofits say great things about volunteers. Most of them don’t mean it. They hate us. Campaigns, too. Many candidates, too. I think I know why.
Winners are going to be paid the same by their constituents (through taxes) no matter how good they are in office, for that office. That’s not normal in our economy. If you’re a sales rep and you sell twice as much product, you likely earn twice as much in commissions. But, while electoral office-holders are stuck with an unchangeable base pay, they can boost their income in two ways. They can take other jobs. Legislators accept leadership positions, and there may be a lot of them. One legislator was the only member of her party in her legislature and she asked for, and got, more pay for leading her party’s legislative member(s) (a total of one, herself). Part-time legislators can have side gigs as consultants, lawyers, and such like that aren’t officially exactly a conflict of interest. Maybe it’s close to being a conflict of interest, but not over the line.
And the other way is that they can take bribes. Oh, they would not do that and will be firmly clear about their policy against that. But campaign contributions are not illegal. And those go to campaign committees where the candidates make the major spending decisions. Office-holders who already won also have campaign committees, for the next race. And their close friends are sheer geniuses who should be hired as campaign consultants (campaign managers, finance directors, secretaries, copier machine paper loaders, whatever) for reasonable fees. And it all works out well for the candidates’ family members, close friends who are helpful at other times, and favorite charities. So, no, we need not mention the envelope on the edge of the desk. And if candidates hand their closest staff a little extra cash, it’s not more wages, it’s just a little off-the-books help with their living expenses so they don’t have to tell anyone like the IRS. And, like many institutions, it’s smoother going if the top person is surrounded by loyal followers, people who think the same way the boss does, so, if the boss thinks they deserve a little more income, the staff thinks the same way about their boss but also about themselves.
Volunteers, of course, don’t think their pay should be doubled; they’re volunteers who are despised mainly as economic undercutters. Some volunteers accept paid positions but some don’t. That makes volunteers dangerously different. Volunteers might blow a whistle. In the eyes of paid people, it’s better to keep volunteers a safe mileage away.
Candidates who stand for an issue so strongly they want to recruit help from far away are probably less corrupt, while candidates’ staffs who don’t understand why you’d volunteer if you don’t live in the district are more likely to be undercompetent or to represent corrupt politicians. And corrupt politicians are probably more tolerant of vote fraud provided it’s in their favor.
One local leader sent a check, a donation, to a local candidate. A bunch of stuff was crossed out on the check and a bunch of other stuff was written on it. I don’t remember what got edited; maybe she changed the bank and the account number. I knew it wouldn’t make it through most banks. Our campaign manager knew it would be rubber, too. But the local leader was important. So the check got deposited and the bank bounced it and doubtless charged us a bounce fee, but then we could tell the local leader that we tried and we have no idea why the big cold bank didn’t understand. I didn’t speak to the donor. Few people in politics knew her. But, locally, she was influential. Some time passes. I read about her. She’s being sentenced in court. Financial irregularities. She said she didn’t understand that stuff. The judge said you get an accountant. The judge noted the many letters of praise for her. Something about politicians led whoever they were to write piles of letters of commendation. I think she got prison time anyway.
Whether the problem is mostly on the Democratic side is moot. People who see a benefit in corrupting the system tend to justify it partly by saying that everybody else does it, too. Thus, even if mostly Democrats are doing it now, if Republicans can't beat it, they'll likely join it. No national committee decision will be needed or will be forthcoming or will even be on the agenda. They’re not stupid; neither are Democrats; no one has beaten either party in winning a major election in at least a century. Party leadership will just have high expectations of local leaders, the people who are hardly heard of but who matter in persuading people to support their candidates. Local leaders who don’t deliver can, in a roundabout way, be replaced. The local leaders will use whatever tools are at their disposal without too much cost. Not getting caught lowers the cost. Some Republicans will stay clean; some Democrats will stay clean; everyone wants sparkly cleanliness when they’re essentially guaranteed to win anyway or essentially guaranteed to lose anyway. Dirty politics tends to happen where races are relatively close and a fear of losing a winnable position is higher. Even there, there’s plenty of work for clean people to do, even in campaigns that don’t admit to there being much work for volunteers. Campaigners who want to do something they shouldn’t tend to ask if someone’s willing and politely back away from anyone who doesn’t want to or is new, no questions asked. The problem probably does not depend on the particular party. Business sales staffs often cut corners, even when some are honest. The medical field has its scandals (such as ghost-written studies), even while other members are excellent scientists and even while we across society tend to get healthier from decade to decade. In other democratic nations, political parties have scandals that sometimes lead to the arrest of a nationally elected leader. But that doesn't mean we don’t have a problem with politics in our country or that we shouldn’t fix it.
I still read newspaper stories about scandals with some trepidation that I will see someone I know getting a rap sheet. So far, I’ve been relatively lucky. One person who strongly supported a candidate I supported went to prison and another candidate and one of her slate members I supported probably knew nothing about the issues for which she had been recommended to me. (So much for slates. So much for a recommendation that was likely motivated by party loyalty more than issue awareness.) Out of 25 campaigns I was in, that’s not too bad a ratio, it omits the very positive experiences (like the candidate I frequently phoned at home in the morning without her complaining), and the worst I ever got personally stuck with was anger from several winners at me probably because I don’t ask for pay or patronage and that one called all volunteers “stupid”. Given everything, that’s not too bad, but I’m still staying out now. It’s the other reason I took myself off the voter rolls.
Vote fraud is through a combination of lawful and unlawful methods. It’s hard-to-impossible to prosecute. On net balance, it benefits candidates and political parties. That’s why they do it. When it doesn’t get extreme, and the candidate fulfills a major agenda, the public generally tolerates the problem. To invert, to scrap, what Dick Tracy kept saying: “Crime . . . pay[s].” It also costs us. Maybe too much.