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Crime and Punishment
Another Double-Digit Homicide Spike

FiveThirtyEight‘s latest tally of murder trends in America’s biggest cities contains some eye-catching data points:

Murder almost certainly increased substantially in the U.S. in 2016, one year after it rose at its fastest pace in a quarter century. […]

This year’s rise appears slightly smaller than last year’s dramatic increase. The big cities experienced roughly a 11.3 percent increase in murder in 2016, which is down from the same group’s 14.8 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Still, the figures suggest that big cities have seen murder rise by more than a quarter in just two years, likely the biggest two-year increase since 1989 to 1991. […]

In all there were six big cities — Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Anchorage, Alaska; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Durham, North Carolina; and Indianapolis — that appear to have set records for highest murder counts in one year dating back to 1960.3 There were also at least 16 big cities that tied or surpassed their worst murder years since the start of 2000 in 2016.

Since Donald Trump started to make the crime uptick a centerpiece of his campaign (often invoking inaccurate or exaggerated data), many journalists and fact-checkers have made a point of noting that Americans are actually safer than they have been for most of the past several decades. And this is true—since the crime wave broke in the mid-1990s, the murder rate has fallen dramatically. Fewer Americans are killed every year now than were when President Obama took office.

But as with most social phenomena, including immigration and the economy, what matters when it comes to public perception of crime is not the absolute level but the rate of change. And the last two years have seen more than a 25 percent increase in the rate of killing, according to FiveThirtyEight data. This is a significant surge, and it’s not surprising that Americans’ concerns about crime and violence are at their highest than at any time since 2001.

While Trump has pushed crime to the center of the public debate, he has offered more bluster than policy proposals for reducing the number of killings. Meanwhile, journalists and experts who should be thinking about policy fixes have been busy scoffing at Trump or declaring concerns about rising murder rates to be a front for bigotry. It’s time for this issue to be taken seriously as a failure of governance—for wonks and policymakers to put the difficult task of crime control at the top of their agenda. And that probably means hiring more cops and detectives and helping police departments build better relationships with the communities they protect.

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  • Disappeared4x

    “… journalists and experts who should be thinking about policy fixes…” on crime in America should all be reading Heather MacDonald, the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops. Here is her assessment on the recent Facebook crime:

    • Beauceron

      Heather MacDonald is one of those scholars that you read and think, “Thank God she is out there picking up this issue and examining it.”

      • Disappeared4x

        Yes, which is why City-Journal is my go-to for proof of online sanity.

  • Beauceron

    No worries. As soon as Obama is gone, I am certain the press will highlight the rising violent crime rates endlessly.

    It’s the “Krugman Flop.”

    Just 79 days ago, when it was apparent to everyone Hillary would be the next POTUS, Krugman was arguing vigorously that national deficits meant nothing and the debt should be run up without worry and anyone who said different was a rube. Now that a Republican has won, he’s done a 180 and, and just as in the Bush years, the national deficit is a crisis that may destroy the future of America.

  • Andrew Allison

    Ferguson Effect? What Ferguons Effect? Nothing to see here, move right along!

  • Arkeygeezer

    The former mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, Willie Herenton, who was elected mayor five times before resigning in 2009, characterized Memphis’s crime problem as a black problem and said, “The blacks must take ownership of the problem. They can’t pass it off.”

    “It’s up to us to protect us from us,” Herenton said.

  • Boritz

    “While Trump has pushed crime to the center of the public debate, he has offered more bluster than policy proposals for reducing the number of killings.”

    Puhleeeese. There is nothing new for Trump to propose. Rudy G. gained all the ground and demonstrated the success of the methodology that is needed to fight crime big and small. The left reversed, squandered and misdirected his proven efforts.

    • Beauceron

      As a NYer, I can tell you that you are spot on with that comment.
      Guiliani pretty much single handedly turned NY around– and NYers pretty much hate him for it. In any case Guliani’s policies are mostly off the table now. All right thinking people agree they’re racist.

    • ltlee1

      Actually a wall at the southern border would help. A lot illegal immigration through the Mexican border were no Mexicans but Guantamalan, Hondurans, and El Savadorans. High homicide rate is indicative of American cultural cauldron is boiling over.

  • CapitalHawk

    I am reliably informed that Black Lives Matter (if they are taken by police or white people, but not if they are taken by other blacks). So, given those facts, this increase in the murder rate is largely no big deal because the vast majority of the newly dead people are (a) black and (b) were murdered by other blacks. As such, their lives do not matter and this increase in the murder rate also does not matter. QED

  • Frank Natoli

    And that probably means hiring more cops and detectives and helping police departments build better relationships with the communities they protect.
    Is that what Giuliani and Bratton did in the city where I was born and raised? To bring the annual murder rate down from over 2,000 to 600? No, that is NOT what Giuliani and Bratton did. Neither did they demand or get any new gun laws. What Giuliani and Bratton did was, get this, ENFORCE THE LAW. And Bratton introduced CompStat, which, get this, increased police presence where there was…crime!
    And, speaking about “build better relationships with the communities”, isn’t the most important thing a police department can do for that is to stop murders, rapes, assaults and robberies?

  • CapitalHawk

    With this comment I will be less flippant, as there is an actual serious question to discuss here. That question is: should “white” America impose on “black” America its desired level of policing? If we assume that all black crime is committed against other blacks (yes I know this is not true), there is a justification for policing black neighborhoods at lower levels, if that is what the population there desires.

    • LarryD

      Are we asking the black activists or the blacks who actually live in the crime ridden neighborhoods? I believe that makes a considerable difference.

      • Frank Natoli

        Are we asking the black activists or the blacks who actually live in the crime ridden neighborhoods?
        When crime is out of control, “blacks who actually live in the crime ridden neighborhoods” demand police action.
        When crime is in control, and a wildly disproportionate number of black men are incarcerated, “blacks who actually live in [what were] crime ridden neighborhoods” claim the justice system is racist.

        • CapitalHawk

          “Wildly disproportionate” compared to what? Their percent of the population or their percent of crimes committed?

          • Frank Natoli

            Of course, the complaint of the locals is wildly disproportionate to their percent of population, not to percent of crime committed. The locals see the latter as a fabrication of white racists but the former as the only relevant fact.

        • LarryD

          How many of the black activists live in the black underclass neighborhoods? My impression is, almost none. Their activity is emotionally gratifying, but the consequences fall on other people.

          • Frank Natoli

            Somehow I see the brilliant [and nice to look at] Heather MacDonald as the Cassandra of our time.
            If you haven’t already done so, PLEASE take the time to read her 2008 article at the above link.
            See how “the people”, and thus their elected representatives, DEMANDED action against the animals who were destroying their neighborhoods.
            Then consider how the same people, and the same elected representatives, insist that the “poor” and “minorities” get no justice, see the U.S. Senator from my God forsaken state of New Jersey attempting to impugn the truly Honorable Jeff Sessions today.
            These people are sickening.

      • CapitalHawk

        You are probably correct. There has been a very limited amount of reporting on this out of Baltimore, where the police essentially went on double secret strike after the riots. The black citizens started to complain that now the criminals are able to do as they please. But this has largely been drowned out by the incessant drumbeat of “police victimize another poor black man!”

    • ImperiumVita

      The state has an interest in preventing violent crime against its tax paying citizens, regardless of color.

      • CapitalHawk

        I disagree. I think that government decisions should be pushed to the lowest level possible and local policing should be decided locally. The state should prevent violent crime against its citizens to the level demanded by those same citizens (and all citizens get a say, tax paying or not). So, if a local black neighborhood demands fewer police patrols and it results in higher murders in that neighborhood, and the citizens of that neighborhood are happy with the result – why should I object?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    When a long established down trend in the murder rate reverses itself in such dramatic fashion, there has to be a reason. And that reason is Leftist governance.

  • Alec Rawls

    Trump “has offered more bluster than policy proposals for reducing the number of killings.” Author evidently missed Trump and Guilani saying they were going to apply Guilani’s NYC policy of sending the most police to the highest crime districts. In other words, instead of backing off where the BlackLives criminal’s lobby goes to war with the police, they are going to crack down.

    I’m not sure blacks deserve that risk and cost. They voted overwhelmingly for the criminals-lobby-embracing Hillary, but that’s Trump’s plan, to try to free the law abiding blacks from the criminals, and if he succeeds it will change racial politics forever.

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