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crime wave
Murder Rates Keep Rising

When police departments in large urban areas started posting alarming increases in violent crime in 2015, liberal and centrist media outlets rushed to tell their readers that the increase was either a myth cooked up by right-wing pundits, or else greatly exaggerated—and that, in any case it certainly didn’t have anything to with the political turmoil set off by high-profile police shooting controversies (the hypothesis known as the “Ferguson Effect”). But it’s getting harder and harder to deny that the uptick is real, persistent, and deadly. The Washington Post reports:

The number of homicides increased in the first months of 2016 in more than two dozen major U.S. cities, going up in places that also saw spiking violence last year, according to statistics released Friday. […]

“I was very worried about it last fall, and I am in many ways more worried, because the numbers are not only going up, they’re continuing to go up in most of those cities faster than they were going up last year,” FBI Director James B. Comey, who got an early look at the numbers, said Wednesday. “Something is happening.”

Writers pooh-poohing the rise in crime rates usually point out that the murder rate remains significantly lower than it was in the 1990s, before 20 years of nearly uninterrupted declines. But that is small comfort to Comey, who recognizes that it’s his job to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, the idea of a Ferguson Effect is getting a second look from at least one prominent skeptic. The Guardian reports:

For nearly a year, Richard Rosenfeld’s research on crime trends has been used to debunk the existence of a “Ferguson effect”, a suggested link between protests over police killings of black Americans and an increase in crime and murder. Now, the St Louis criminologist says, a deeper analysis of the increase in homicides in 2015 has convinced him that “some version” of the Ferguson effect may be real.

Looking at data from 56 large cities across the country, Rosenfeld found a 17% increase in homicide in 2015. Much of that increase came from only 10 cities, which saw an average 33% increase in homicide.

“These aren’t flukes or blips, this is a real increase,” he said. “It was worrisome. We need to figure out why it happened.”

Why the reluctance (in some quarters) to recognize that the rise in the rate of killing is a cause for concern, and that it might be related to the fraying of police-community relations in high-crime areas in the wake of shootings and protests? One reason is probably the perception that publicizing the problem could derail the push for criminal justice reform. But Americans are already more concerned about crime and violence than they have been in 15 years, and—partly as a result—the much-hyped Senate bill relaxing federal penalties for certain nonviolent offenses is advancing slower than many people anticipated.

Criminal justice reformers (whose aims we broadly sympathize with) would probably do better to explain why their proposed reforms won’t increase the crime rate—and why draconian sentencing for nonviolent offenses is probably not the most efficient way to address it—rather than continuing to deny that there is a real problem in some of America’s biggest cities.

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  • Beauceron

    As someone who lives in a somewhat sketchy (let’s call it “colorful”) neighborhood in a major metropolitan area, I will tell you it feels different. That is not quantifiable by statistical evidence I know, but it’s a vibe, a real thing. I don’t need statistics to tell me that there is an increase in violence (and it isn’t just murders, assaults are up significantly). And I can only shake my head at the Left wing pundits who make a lot of money by pretending they care about people while simply pushing a party line against all evidence.

    • Arkeygeezer

      I also live in a major metropolitan area that has experienced an increase in violent crime. The crimes are mostly black on black involving domestic violence, drugs, and black gang activity.

      That has been coupled with a flight of police officers from our area due to a prosecution of police by a District Attorney and a reduction in pay from our City council.

      • Pete

        Brother, there are a lot of reasons, of which this is one, why Trump ‘resonated’ with a lot of people

  • Blackbeard

    Historically the two issues that have had a major negative effects on liberal election success have been their nonchalance about crime and their indifference to national security. These issues dropped sharply in importance as the crime rate dropped and the Cold War ended. That period may be ending. For example, I would guess we are only one major terrorist attack away from a Trump victory.

  • Andrew Allison
  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The increase in murder is mostly from 10 of the 56 largest cities. No, no, don’t tell which cities, let me guess. Well, give me a hint. Have they all been run by the Democrats for decades?

    • Pete

      And what group is behind the murder rise, Orientals? Whites? I think not.

  • PierrePendre

    Sentencing reform and the interaction of police and criminals or suspects on the streets are two separate issues. What liberals need to explain is why the spike in violence coincided with the aggressive attitude towards the police post-Ferguson and the instructions they get from their mayors regarding stop-and-search. If cause and effect aren’t a factor, what do they think explains the sudden spike? An O’Reilly segment on Fox concerning Chicago noted that there was no special effort by the authorities to contain and reduce the horrendous level of violence in Black areas. He asked if there would be a similar lack of response to violence in White parts of the city. As usual, the primary victims of crime and violence and hands-off policing in Black areas are non-violent Black residents whose human rights appear to be secondary in the view of the BLM movement and its political and academic cheerleaders. As far as sentencing policy is concerned, the length of prison terms imposed by the courts, sometimes with no possibility of parole, always strikes me as a European as absurd.

  • Fat_Man

    #BlackLivesDontMatter

    • Andrew Allison

      to Blacks.

  • jeburke

    Remember also that the naysayers’ argument that crime as a whole is not going up may be an illusion. Murder is the one crime police agencies cannot fail to report unless they hide the bodies. All others can be charged down (eg, a felony robbery becomes a misdemeanor theft) and there is always political pressure on police commanders to low ball stats.

  • Daniel Nylen

    As someone who remembers when the poor urban communities begged for more police presence to fight the rampant crime and gang activity, the new political action to reduce police in their neighborhoods is remarkable. Is it a reaction to an oppressive police presence (that might be necessary to reduce the crime) or a political stunt? The efforts that many cities’ leadership put into ensure adequate police presence in bad neighborhoods (ala NYC precinct reviews and broken windows) is now gone and a new chapter in how to manage crime will have to be written.

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