In the late 1980s roughly one-third of serious and violent crimes in the U.S. were committed by juveniles under the age of 18. In the eight years between 1986 and 1994 the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles went from 600,000 to 1.05 million. A major contributor to the high juvenile crime rate over this period was the emergence of Columbian cocaine smuggled by South American gangs into U.S. and marketed by heavily armed street gangs. Juveniles made up a significant cohort of the members of these gangs, who were constantly at war with rival gangs over marketing territory. In large urban centers juvenile gang members played a major role in moving crack-cocaine and punishing rivals. At that time state laws written in the 1950s to deal with teen-aged joyriders and petty thieves with short stays in Juvenile Hall and rehabilitation programs, were inadequate to deal with hardened 17-year-old drug dealers carrying automatic weapons. Drive-by shootings, violent carjackings, and murders over a victim’s wristwatch or tennis shoes became regular occurrences in big cities and juveniles were often the perpetrators.
Hans Bader has this post at Liberty Unyielding: “The murder rate has fallen by two thirds since 2018, and crime has fallen by 75%, in El Salvador as it has imprisoned large numbers of criminals. The country has put a hefty 2% of its adult population in prison. This is due to the anti-crime policies of its current president, Nayib Bukele.”
Bader quotes an essay by Edgar Beltrán at Law and Liberty:
In 2015, El Salvador reached a sky-high 103 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The year before Bukele came to power, it was 51 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Now, it is 17.6, about half the rate of American cities such as Philadelphia or Chicago…. Bukele is, by far, the most popular, democratically elected leader in the world. Independent polls have his local approval rating around 80 or 85%. The explanation is relatively simple: El Salvador went from being one of the most violent countries in the world, absolutely dominated by criminal gangs, to reducing crime by 75%. Bukele promised to end crime and he delivered … by putting in jail almost 2% of the adult population of the country.
Responding to MSNBC interviewer’s statement that New York City residents “don’t feel safe in this town,” and are “worried we could become San Francisco,” the state’s newly-elected Governor Kathy Hochul said NYC “will never be San Francisco.” Mallory Monench of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Hochul went on to say that the Big Apple was successfully fighting crime, with homicides and shootings down dramatically from last year. While the two cities have vastly different populations, on overall crime they are generally comparable. Homicides are tracking down 14% in New York City compared to last year while they are up in San Francisco by .43%. But NYC saw dramatic increases in 2020 and 2021, while San Francisco homicides increased only slightly. Both cities have unacceptable rates of violent crime. When it comes to property crime Hochul is correct about San Francisco. The numbers for 2020 show almost three times the rate of property crimes in San Francisco than in New York. The reporter admits something that most of the media and liberal think tanks ignore, “The number is almost certainly higher in reality since many people don’t report property crime to the police because of the perception that doing so won’t make a difference.”
Over the last several years, the progressive prosecutor movement has grown in popularity, with more and more policy changes reducing penalties for certain crimes. A common theme is for district attorneys to restrict prosecutions for certain offenses, and to reduce the severity of punishments for cases that are prosecuted.
One example is Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has been dismissing more and more cases each year, despite the fact that the city recently reached its highest murder rate in history. He thinks that his approach is “working,” per a recent local news interview (originally reported by Heather McDonald in the Daily Mail and summarized in a CJLF post). In the interview, he incessently denied that his policies have negative consequences and was seemingly unconcerned about the homicide increase.
The sheer fact that homicides have increased in Philadelphia every year of Krasner’s term should be cause for concern. Not surprisingly, a deep dive into the research confirms that Krasner’s policies are at least partially to blame for the increase in homicides in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia murder rates rise due to lenient sentences sought by progressive prosecutor Larry Krasner
As the progressive prosecutor movement grows in popularity, we see more and more policy changes that reduce penalties for certain crimes. One of the common themes is de-prosecution, or the discretionary decision to not prosecute certain criminal offenses. Another aspect of de-prosecution involves reducing the severity of punishment for individuals who are prosecuted. The movement came about due to the belief of many progressives that mass incarceration actually increases crime through supposed “criminogenic” effects. That is, they believe that people who serve long periods of time in prison will adapt to that culture and learn certain behaviors that will make them worse criminals. However, opponents argue that de-prosecution policies don’t hold offenders sufficiently accountable, and will only encourage more crime as offenders learn that there are little to no consequences for their behavior.
In Philadelphia, de-prosecution began in 2015 with District Attorney Seth Williams. This resulted in a substantial decline in both new cases prosecuted and sentencings (particularly for drug possession, drug trafficking, and felony possession of firearms), a trend that accelerated when District Attorney Larry Krasner took office in 2018. At the annual Federalist Society Convention last year, Krasner boasted that his policies are “on the side of the data,” vehemently denying that de-prosecution increases crime. However, a 2022 study published in Criminology and Public Policy refuted Krasner’s claims. The study, conducted by Thomas Hogan, revealed a causal link between de-prosecution and increased homicides in Philadelphia.
In a previous post, we announced that California Attorney General Rob Bonta has officially released state crime data for 2021. He eagerly noted that violent and property crime rates are well below the historic highs seen in the mid-1990s, but whistled past the fact that violent crime rates have been slowly climbing since the early 2000s. The contradictory shifts in violent crime versus property crime are somewhat perplexing. While overall crime rates might be down, violent crimes, particularly aggravated assaults and homicides, have been increasing.
Looking at the numbers all together, it is important to keep in mind: all crimes are not created equal in the harm they cause. For example, homicides are a relatively rare event, yet they are much more harmful than high-frequency crimes like larceny. For example, an increase of 500 thefts would be a small change in the overall number of thefts and would have little overall impact on public safety, whereas an increase of 500 homicides would be a large change in the overall number of homicides and have a very detrimental impact on public safety. By looking at crime statistics though, these nuances can be overshadowed.
The District Attorneys of Placer and Amador Counties told reporters Monday that a Sacramento man arrested for the July murder and dismemberment of an elderly North Highlands woman, gained early release from state prison after serving less than half of his sentence for previous crimes. Rosalio Ahumada of the Sacramento Bee reports that habitual felon Darnell Erby is facing charges of aggravated murder and burglary for killing 77-year-old Pamela Garrett May, whose dismembered body was found in her home on July 19. Over the past 20 years Erby had been convicted of 8 different crimes, arrested 20 times, and had been unable to go more than two years without committing a serious felony. Under California’s progressive sentencing reforms Erby actually became eligible for parole in 2018, a year after he was sentenced to 12 years for felony convictions in Placer and Amador County. He was denied parole twice for criminal activity while in prison, but was granted parole in April of 2021. Governor Jerry Brown’s Public Safety Realignment (AB 209) passed in 2011, and his George Soros-bankrolled Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, passed in 2016, made this murderer’s release possible.
In recent years, many jurisdictions in the U.S. have taken steps to reform their cash bail systems due to concerns about fair treatment of defendants and potential disparities in release decisions. Though, there is no consensus about what should replace cash bail, and there are numerous concerns about the potential public safety risks associated with bail reform. Proponents of bail reform advocate for reducing or eliminating the use of monetary bail to reduce jail populations and reduce income disparities. However, opponents of bail reform argue that reforms have resulted in more defendants committing crimes while on pretrial release. To date, the research has been mixed regarding the impacts of different bail reform efforts, but newer research seems to be suggesting the obvious — that bail “reforms” are linked to increases in crime.
Misleading numbers: Why are suicides and homicides lumped together under the “gun violence” umbrella?
A recent article in TIME Magazine purports that “California’s answer to gun violence could be a model for the entire country.” In sum, the article states that California’s firearm violence has decreased over the last 20 years or so, relative to the rest of the country. They attribute this to the various gun legislation passed in California over the years that disrupted the manufacturing of cheap guns within the state, closed private sales loopholes, and restricted gun ownership for people convicted of a violent misdemeanor. But when looking at the actual data, these claims appear misleading.
Back in May 2021, we released a comprehensive research review examining the literature on the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism. To date, this paper is the most comprehensive literature review on the topic. Over the last several months though, we have made some important updates and revisions. The updated version is now available via the Social Science Research Network.