Like it or not, it is undeniable that “urban safety” is hampered when law enforcement is criminalized. In practice, that means that “law-abiding residents of poor communities” suffer. How much? Heather Mac Donald has the grim statistics:
… 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%.
Those citywide statistics from law-enforcement officials mask even more startling neighborhood-level increases. Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%.
By contrast, the first six months of 2014 continued a 20-year pattern of growing public safety. Violent crime in the first half of last year dropped 4.6% nationally and property crime was down 7.5%. Though comparable national figures for the first half of 2015 won’t be available for another year, the January through June 2014 crime decline is unlikely to be repeated. …
This is what Ms. Mc Donald told Paul Gigot of the Journal Editorial Report (I love text; it’s becoming rare):
GIGOT: Heather MacDonald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at “City Journal.” And I’m happy to say, contributing writer for the “Wall Street Journal,” in a column last week … which had a big impact. Hundreds of thousands of readers called it the new American crime wave.
Is it really that bad? What are we really seeing here in terms of a change from the big decline in crime over the last 20, 30 years?
MACDONALD: Some cities, it is very, very bad. It’s not every city. Some are holding stable with a little bit of an increase. But in enough significant cities, the percentage increase is so large as to really demand attention.
GIGOT: And what’s behind it?
MACDONALD: I think what’s behind it is the last nine months of obsessive anti-cop hysteria that this country has lived through based on a few isolated and questionable shootings of black men that should be, if they are criminal, prosecuted and paid attention to. But by no means represent the norm of policing in America or the way most black men die today, which is at the hands of criminals, not the police.
GIGOT: But is this criticism leading to changes in police practices? For example, are the police saying we’re criticized so let’s not do the kinds of things that we were doing before. Don’t go into high-crime neighborhoods, for example? Let’s not pursue Stop and Frisk, which you can stop somebody, then see if they have a gun. And sometimes that gets guns off the street, or so that’s what the people who support it claim. Is it a change of police practices that’s going on?
MACDONALD: Police are still responding to 911 calls. If they get a violent felony calling in, they are responding. But it’s an informal change of officers that — if they have an option to respond or not, to undertake a discretionary stop, to ask a few questions, the very policing that is responsible for the two decades-long crime decline. Officers are hesitant to engage. They’re worried that they’ll be indicted for a good- faith mistake. They’re worried about the ubiquitous cell phone videos that rarely capture the resistance that led an officer to use force. And so officers having been told now, for the last nine months, that proactive policing, going out enforcing broken windows offenses, quality of life offenses against public drinking, that that is somehow a racist assault on minority communities, are understandably saying, well, then maybe we won’t be as aggressive and active.
GIGOT: Now, are you hearing that from — when you go — you talk to police across the country
GIGOT: When you do that, is that what you’re hearing them say privately?
GIGOT: They are telling you this?
MACDONALD: Oh, yes. They are very worried. They’re worried about losing their jobs. The arrest situation in places like Baltimore is unbelievably hostile. When the police are responding to a 911 call, crowds gather, jeer at them, sometimes throwing things at them for no reason. There was an incident in Baltimore recently where a man with a gun started running, the police had been called to the scene because of a 911 call saying a man with a gun. His own gun went off, he fell to the ground, started writhing and saying the police shot him. The police, who had never discharged their guns, were pelted with Clorox bottles, bricks, water bottles. This is happening not just in Baltimore but the tensions are rising elsewhere
GIGOT: What about Bill de Blasio’s argument that, look, there are — shootings are up, OK, but it’s gang-on-gang violence, and therefore it’s not something that the broader community in New York needs to worry about.
MACDONALD: Most shootings are always gang-on-gang violence. But if they get to a level, and even at any level, there are innocents inevitably taken as well.
GIGOT: Shootings, crossfire, that sort of thing?
MACDONALD: Of course. You know what kills me? We all know the names of Michael Brown, who was falsely turned into a martyr. The Justice Department itself discredited the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” shot —
GIGOT: In Ferguson.
MACDONALD: Marcus Johnson is a 6-year-old boy in St. Louis, who, on March 11th, when the protesters were converging on the Ferguson Police Department, again, demanding the resignation of the entire department, Marcus Johnson was killed by a stray bullet in a St. Louis park just a few miles away. America does not know his name. Why is that? Because the “Black Lives Matter” movement only applies to blacks who are killed by the police trying to do their jobs. The difference between most police shootings and gang shootings is the police do not have criminal intent. Training must work incessantly to make sure that they use force only as last resort. But they’re not the criminals we should be worrying about.
GIGOT: Heather MacDonald, thanks for being here.
MACDONALD: Thank you, Paul.