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Serious crime continues to rise in Gotham. As of March 21, compared with last year, the NYPD has reported eight more homicides (a 12 percent increase) and 63 more shooting incidents (a 40 percent increase) that wounded 69 more people (a 39 percent increase).
These numbers are particularly discouraging, because, at this time in 2020, homicides were down almost 12 percent, and shootings were up just 17 percent compared with 2019. There is good reason to believe that “reforms” enacted by city and state officials — which have essentially lowered the transaction costs of criminal offending, while raising those of enforcing the law — at least partly caused this increase.
A new round of “reforms” passed by the City Council threatens to fan the flames.
While the spike in crime has reverberated throughout the city, some are getting hit much harder than others. In 2020, 91.4 percent of murder and non-negligent homicide victims were black or Hispanic; they constituted 96.4 percent of shooting victims.
Blacks and Hispanics have actually constituted at least 95 percent of shooting victims every year since at least 2008, when the NYPD first started publishing this data. And as uncomfortable as it may be for some to contemplate, they have also constituted the overwhelming majority of shooting and homicide suspects — 97.1 percent and 91.1 percent, respectively — since 2008.
Time was when city leaders, even self-described progressives, would trip over themselves to reassure residents that they would get crime under control before a bloody trend set in. They would propose to fix conditions in vulnerable, mostly minority, neighborhoods and work to reinforce the police and other elements of the justice system. But times have changed.
Enter the council’s new package of police “reforms,” which comes atop the measures passed last summer by the council and state lawmakers. It includes bills that will make police-work even costlier by, among other things, increasing the risk that officers will be held personally liable in lawsuits; prohibiting officers from living in the city’s lower-cost suburbs (making it likelier that they will cross paths while off the job with those whom they’ve arrested); and taking officer discipline out of the police commissioner’s hands, turning those decisions over to a civilian board.
The council’s package contained not a single measure that could conceivably bring shootings and homicides back down. Rather than draw on the successes of the 1990s and early 2000s, leaders have decided that now is the time to embrace even more reform for reform’s sake: to “reimagine” how the Big Apple approaches safety.
What they are proposing is, in essence, an experiment; city residents are the subjects.
The passage of this package should put to rest the widely held belief that law-and-order forces can easily capitalize on rises in crime to stunt reform efforts. Wherever the constituency for law and order in New York City exists, it apparently isn’t nearly big or loud enough to give the council and anti-anti-crime progressives in Albany pause.
What’s happening in New York is part of a national trend. Chicago saw a 55 percent spike in homicides and shootings last year, yet Democratic lawmakers in Illinois recently passed a similarly misguided package of reforms, one that codified in state law the Windy City’s recent experiment in bail “reform.” Last year, in Minneapolis, lawmakers slashed millions from the police budget amid massive spikes in homicides, shootings and car-jackings. Undeterred by the carnage, some councilors there reintroduced a measure to abolish the police department.
Such steps send a message to those who care about public safety: Help is not on the way. The cavalry isn’t coming. Deal with it — or, if you have the means, leave.
The radical wing of the criminal-justice “reform” movement has enjoyed enormous legislative and electoral success over the last few years, in New York and elsewhere. Such success owes much to the impression — carefully crafted and nurtured by those leading the movement — that the fight for reform is, à la Public Enemy, a fight against “the power.” David versus Goliath. Meek Mill versus The System.
But that’s all just a smokescreen. When the smoke clears, it reveals that those leading the movement to de-police city streets and depopulate jails and prisons are The Power. As such, they should be held accountable for their “victories” — and what follows from them.
Rafael A. Mangual is a senior fellow and deputy director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, from which this column was adapted.
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