The New Nationwide Crime Wave
Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years. In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing. Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.
... The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months. Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today. A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police. Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, before he stepped down last month, embraced the conceit that law enforcement in black communities is infected by bias. The news media pump out a seemingly constant stream of stories about alleged police mistreatment of blacks, with the reports often buttressed by cellphone videos that rarely capture the behavior that caused an officer to use force. Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests, like those that followed the death of Vonderrit Myers in St. Louis last October. The 18-year-old Myers, awaiting trial on gun and resisting-arrest charges, had fired three shots at an officer at close range. Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter.
Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice. Proposals aimed at producing more cop convictions abound, but New York state seems especially enthusiastic about the idea.
... This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%. Similar “Ferguson effects” are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014. “Any cop who uses his gun now has to worry about being indicted and losing his job and family,” a New York City officer tells me. “Everything has the potential to be recorded. A lot of cops feel that the climate for the next couple of years is going to be nonstop protests.”
... “There are no real consequences for committing property crimes anymore,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Armando Munoz told Downtown News earlier this month, “and the criminals know this.” The Milwaukee district attorney, John Chisholm, is diverting many property and drug criminals to rehabilitation programs to reduce the number of blacks in Wisconsin prisons; critics see the rise in Milwaukee crime as one result. If these decriminalization and deincarceration policies backfire, the people most harmed will be their supposed beneficiaries: blacks, since they are disproportionately victimized by crime. The black death-by-homicide rate is six times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other black civilians, not the police. The police could end all use of lethal force tomorrow and it would have at most a negligible impact on the black death rate. In any case, the strongest predictor of whether a police officer uses force is whether a suspect resists arrest, not the suspect’s race.Comment: Image source - movie poster from 1954's Crime Wave.