Best Suggestion Yet Of What's Behind Surge In Violence

(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP)

The surge in violence that started last summer has kept on and has even grown worse this year. While things were nice and quiet during the lockdown, everything kicked up during the riots, and while that particular brand of violence sort of settled down eventually, the rest didn’t. It just kept on and on, spilling over into 2021.

Now, violent crime is soaring and the usual suspects are screaming about how there’s no alternative to gun control.

Except, there is. There always is.

In fact, even if gun control worked (spoiler: it doesn’t), there would still be alternatives. To find them, you have to identify what the problem actually is, though.

A recent op-ed, however, does a better job of explaining what we’re seeing than most of what I’ve seen.

DURING the fourth weekend of May this year, America experienced a surge of gun violence. CNN reported 12 mass shootings from Friday to Sunday across eight states, from New Jersey to Illinois. In response to these violent events, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ‘certainly there is a gun problem’ in the country. Psaki’s diagnosis is incorrect; the rise in violence is due to what Heather Mac Donald has called ‘the Ferguson effect’.

A black youth, 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, was  shot dead by a white police officer in 2014. This shooting led to an unsubstantiated charge of racism against the officer by everyone from the press to politicians. The ‘effect’ Mac Donald is referring to is law enforcement pulling back from proactive policing (also known as ‘broken windows policing’) to avoid being labelled racists by the court of public opinion and becoming a news story themselves. Criminals took advantage of this low police presence and have been wreaking havoc all over the country.

The Ferguson effect has also played out in George Floyd’s home city of Minneapolis. Whether or not Floyd’s arresting officer should have been charged with murder or manslaughter is debatable, but accusations of racism on the part of the police at the scene lack evidence. Nonetheless, these charges were slung and broadcast all over the media and, as a result, the Twin City is seeing a homicide rate twice what it was last year.

The author makes a good point.

See, police do more than just arrest criminals. They deter crime. Part of that is simply coming around at random intervals, thus making it difficult to plan for them to be somewhere else.

Another way they deter crime is by, as noted above, being proactive. “Broken window” policing involves arresting people for relatively minor crimes so they don’t end up committing major ones. Yet when police pullback–whether out of their own fear of being called a racist or by order of elected officials–then this isn’t happening.

While there are issues with proactive policing, the truth of the matter is that it works. New York City went from one of the most dangerous cities in the world to one of the safest large cities anywhere and they did that by using this approach. Now, they’re not doing it, and guess which direction the Big Apple is headed?

Seriously, if it gets any worse, they could base a Robocop movie there. Yeah, the surge in violence really is that bad.

The anti-police sentiment from not just the very loud public but also a large number of local elected officials, which means officers have little choice in the matter. They don’t want to risk their careers, and who can blame them?

Let’s not forget the outrage over the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting, which was about as clean a shoot as you’re going to see. Despite that, the usual suspects had to try and Monday morning quarterback the whole thing and make the cop out to be some kind of a racist for doing his job. Is it any wonder proactive policing isn’t a thing?

Yet, if we want to combat the surge in violence we’re seeing all around us, we have to let the police do what we know to work. Defunding departments isn’t going to help.