It has become apparent over the past several years that many of those devoted to the progressive movement taking over the Democrat party are divorced from reality and ignorant of history. This is particularly true when it comes to criminal justice policy. In 1994, more than twice as many Californians were victims of violent crime than in 2011. Murders in the Golden State dropped by 60% during that period. There were comparable reductions in New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida and most other states. There have been mountains of research devoted to finding out why this occurred. Perhaps the best compilation of data on this phenomenon is Professor Barry Latzer’s 2016 book, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America. Latzer concluded that while differences in culture between different racial and ethic groups have historically influenced crime rates, societies’ response to crime plays a major roll in the level of violent crime. In the mid-1990s Americans of every racial and ethnic group demanded a stronger law enforcement response to the criminals dominating its cities during the crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s. That stronger response, including major improvements in policing, delivered two decades of vastly safer cities and neighborhoods, disproportionately benefiting to those living in high-crime urban neighborhoods. None of the thousands of young adults who joined the Black Lives Matter protests last summer know anything about this.
Fatal drug overdoses set an all time record in 2020, with over 93,000 Americans dying. Just shy of a 30% increase compared to 2019. Maggie Fox of The Philadelphia Tribune quotes Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever reported in a 12-month period. These data are chilling. The COVID-19 pandemic created a devastating collision of health crises in America.” The Dean of Public Health Practices at Johns Hopkins agreed; “The pandemic had a lot to do with it….but as the pandemic recedes, we are still dealing wit this overdose crisis.” The story went on to discuss the need for treatment programs and controls on over-prescribing doctors. Earlier this year a Washington Post story by Devlin Barrett reported that last year America saw the largest one-year increase in homicides since records have been kept. The story notes that the increase in murders was not limited to large cities. Small towns also saw increases of up to 30%. Experts suggested that the collapse of public confidence in police contributed to the increase, but that the pandemic also played a significant role. The head of the National Fraternal Order of Police suggested that changes in criminal justice policy which left more criminals on the street contributed, but that suggestion was discounted by a data analyst who explained that increased murders occurred in places where such reforms had not been implemented.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had an enormous impact on nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives, ranging from economic distress, to disrupted schooling, and public health impacts. Relatedly, the pandemic has impacted crime in different ways, but there is still a lot of confusion and disagreement regarding this relationship. On its face, the onset of the pandemic was initially correlated with large drops in many types of crime. However, this finding comes with a caveat: while overall crime rates are lower than they have been in previous years, homicides and shootings are higher than normal, and this trend appears to be continuing into 2021. Continue reading . . .
A recently published San Francisco-based study conducted by the California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley/Los Angeles has shed some insight on the accuracy of the city’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA), an algorithmic tool that is used to inform pretrial release decisions for adult offenders. The tool scores defendants on how likely they are to show up for future court dates, their probability of committing a crime during the pretrial phase, and whether that crime might be violent. Overall, the researchers concluded that the tool met the threshold required for it to be considered “sufficiently predictive” (p. 27) of risk. The study examined 9,800 individuals released pending trial between May 2016 (when the tool was adopted) and December 2019. Of those people released, 51% failed to appear in court and 55% were arrested for new crimes during the pretrial release period (18% of which were for violent offenses).
A City Journal piece by former District Attorney and defense lawyer Tom Hogan, explains why veteran prosecutors have recently been leaving DA’s Offices in large numbers. “Prosecutors are leaving the profession for several reasons, the first and most obvious being the new wave of progressives sweeping into office.” Hogan notes that in St. Louis where Soros-bankrolled progressive Kim Gardner was elected in 2017, turnover in her office exceeded 100% as her de-prosecution, no bail and short sentencing policies, along with her claims that the entire criminal justice system is racist, destroyed morale. He also notes that pro-criminal laws passed by liberal state legislatures, which prevent prosecutors from taking criminals off the streets and bury them in new procedures, and the current political climate which presumes that prosecutors are racists, are also contributing to the exodus of experienced prosecutors. “With violent crime surging in cities across the country, there couldn’t be a worse time to lose them.”
For years, the Left’s complacency about crime has tried to disguise itself by claiming that it’s really the norm of mature thinking, and that the problem is the “fear” and “hysteria” of those of us who think complacency is a foolhardy and dishonest response.
As has become undeniably evident in recent months, however, even well disguised complacency isn’t going to work anymore. The country is headed into its second year of an unprecedented surge in murder (and yes, the correct word is “murder,” not “gun violence”). The question is whether this will come to a head in the mid-term elections now less than 16 months away.
A recent report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) has been making headlines with a bold claim that “California urban crime declined in 2020 amidst social and economic upheaval.” While the CJCJ report does not convey direct falsehoods, the interpretations are misleading without proper context.
Earlier this week, after much grinding through the complex ranked-choice voting system, AP called the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York for Eric Adams. Today the WSJ has this editorial. “Perhaps the city that these days never sleeps safely has a chance to reverse its eight-year downward spiral under mayor Bill de Blasio.”
Perhaps, but that is a very tall order. Continue reading . . .