A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 25, 2013
“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”

"Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” is a rhyming criminal justice expression. “"Don’t commit the crime if you can’t do the time” was called an “old saying” in 1957, but the rhyme is not present. “Don’t do the crime unless you can do the time” was cited in print in 1963.


Urban Dictionary
Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time
A “hip” expression of the 1960’s-70’s that advises you not to do something risky unless you are willing and able to accept the full weight of the consequences.
Ironically popularized by the theme song to the TV show “Baretta” starring Robert Blake.
(...)
by PJ Poppyjoe Jul 4, 2005

23 May 1957, Waterloo (IA) Daily Courier, “Delinquents Beware!” by Bob Considine (INS), pg. 27, col. 3:
Like the old saying goes, “Don’t commit the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Google Books
Social Problems
Volumes 11-12
1963
Pg. 198:
Doing time “standing on your head” is an expression used in many adult correctional institutions by habitual, institutionalized inmates who have learned how to do time by “pulling it,” and who usually accept a “prison bit” or jail term philosophically ("don’t do the crime unless you can do the time").

Google Books
The Crime Problem
By Walter Cade Reckless
New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts
1967
Pg. 314:
“Don’t do the crime unless you can do the time” was a quite prevalent motto.

21 January 1969, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “De Paula Prefers Alley Over a Ring For His Title Fight” by Milton Gross, pg. 13, col. 6:
“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” says Frankie.

Google Books
This Book Is About Schools
By Satu Repo
New York, NY: Random House
1970
Pg. 116:
I’d heard my uncle use the phrase, “Why do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” I thought that was quite a smart saying, and I wanted to get up with my brother Bill anyway, so I said, “Why do the crime, if you can’t do the time,”

6 October 1971, The Daily News (Huntingdon and Mount Union, PA), “‘Good Time Bill’ Comes Up For House Vote Today,” pg. 1, col. 5:
HARRISBURG (UPI)—“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” So goes an old prison maxim.

Google News Archive
21 August 1973, Fort Scott (KS) Tribune, “Dear Abby” advice column, pg. 2, col. 7:
There is an old saying: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime!”

OCLC WorldCat record
You do the crime, you do the time
Author: Martine Barrat
Publisher: New York : Martine Barrat, 1974-76.
Edition/Format: VHS video : VHS tape Visual material : English
Summary:
Two portraits of street gangs in the South Bronx. Part 1:"Vickie"--A 16-year-old gang member talks about her first love, the relationships between male and female gangs and sexuality. The violence which characterizes life in the South Bronx is reinforced when she describes the assassination of her best friend by rival gang members. Part 2:"A Trial by the Roman Kings"--A member is accused of violating the gang’s code, resulting in the arrest of another member. A trial is held to decide whether the “defendant” should be expelled or reinstated. During the proceedings, a number of verbal and physical confrontations occur.

OCLC WorldCat record
You do the crime, you do the time : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of prison life and afterwards by the people who freely gave their stories.
Author: Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service; Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.; Healthpact.
Publisher: Narrabundah, A.C.T. : Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services, 2007.
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Do the crime, do the time : juvenile criminals and adult justice in the American court system
Author: G Larry Mays
Publisher: Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.] : Praeger, 2012.
Edition/Format: Book : English
Summary:
This book provides a fresh look at the way the United States is choosing to deal with some of the serious or persistent youth offenders: by transferring juvenile offenders to adult courts.

YouTube
Baretta theme song w/ Sammy Davis Jr.
MrBigrose11
Uploaded on Jan 11, 2012
This is the actual intro of the police drama “Baretta” (1975-78) with vocals by Sammy Davis Jr. This version was used from Season 2 til it’s cancellation.
("Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” is a lyric—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, January 25, 2013 • Permalink