NY Professor On Why We're Seeing A Crime Spike

(AP Photo/Mary Hudetz, File)

Violence is increasing. The homicide rate is skyrocketing at an incredible rate. Right now, a lot of people are trying to figure out why. We’ve spent a fair bit of time doing so ourselves.

Of course, a lot of people have theories.

So, it’s no surprise that a professor of political science at SUNY Cortland has some. One of which is, unsurprisingly, so many guns have been sold that some just have to be used for nefarious purposes. However, some of the others are rather interesting.

First is the pandemic, which [Dr. Robert] Spitzer said has dislocated and disrupted society and has generated a lot of anxiety around the country.

“For some Americans, they address societal anxiety as they perceive it by getting a gun,” Spitzer said. “That by itself I think is a factor – just the disruption of normal life.”

According to Spitzer, the third contributing factor to the rise in gun violence is the breakdown in police-community relations.

“Well-documented instances of the police abusing their authority in New York City and other cities around the country has disrupted things,” Spitzer explained.

Finally, community anti-violence programs that had been in place for several years and which were designed to micro-target violence and crime in communities has been disrupted by COVID-19.

“You can’t be going door-to-door and speaking to people person to person in the middle of a pandemic,” said Spitzer.

Now, these actually make some degree of sense. Especially how anti-violence programs were sidetracked due to the pandemic. It’s actually a good example of why total lockdowns might not have been the best approach.

Disruption to normal life and the breakdown in police-community relations likely also contributed.

Where Spitzer is likely wrong (besides his unfounded theory that more guns translates to more crime) is in dismissing bail reform efforts as contributing anything to this mess. While he states there isn’t enough data to know anything–something I agree with him on–he does say he thinks it’s unlikely it plays a factor. However, putting a revolving door on the local jail isn’t really going to make people much safer, that’s for sure.

Frankly, he’s too glib with his dismissal of that as a potential cause.

However, these three things above are very plausible, especially anti-violence programs shutting down and not doing what they normally do to keep people from doing down that dark path. This is also true of a lot of after-school programs designed to keep kids from becoming juvenile delinquents.

It’s worth seeing if the resumption of those programs will show any impact on the homicide rate.

What’s also important is to consider this as some talk about an additional round of lockdowns amid fears over the Delta variant. Even if lockdowns might be warranted, there are some things we should reevaluate as to whether they’re essential or not.

Granted, I don’t think any of us are going to just roll over and accept yet another lockdown–I sure as hell won’t–so this might be a moot point, but it’s still something the powers that be might want to sit down and think about first.

Sep 22, 2021 6:30 PM ET