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What Can We Do About Crime?

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              So, yesterday Joe holds a meeting at the White House to figure out what to do about crime which seems to be out of control in cities like Chicago and New York. He’s got all the usual suspects sitting around the table – the cops, the big-city mayors, the ones who always show up when we get worried about crime. And crime is a big problem for Joe right now because the latest polls show that this issue could kill the Democrats in 2022 with the suburban vote. 

              One of the attendees at the meeting was our friend Eric Adams, the newly-elected Mayor of New York City who says he’s particularly concerned about losing wealthy residents to low-crime states like Florida because, as he puts it, “they’re not worried about high taxes, they’re worried about high crime rates.”

              I can just see it now. Some dude who lives in Scarsdale or Chappaqua, one of those wealthy New York suburbs, gets up in the morning and takes the commuter train down to New York. Then he gets off the train in Grand Central Station and switches to the subway for a quick ride downtown to Wall Street.

              Except since he’s all worried about crime, instead of getting off the subway at the Wall Street Station, he gets off at the Fulton Street stop, switches trains and takes the subway out to the Utica Avenue stop, or maybe the stop at Ralph Avenue.

              Know where this dude has ended up?  In the middle of a Brooklyn neighborhood called East New York. Which happens to be not far from the 88 NYPD Precinct, where Eric Adams did his 20 years when he was on the job. It also happens to be the neighborhood where a large number of the city’s 225 murders and 11,033 aggravated assaults have taken place this year.

              By the way, for all the screaming headlines about how crime is ‘out of control,’ the year -to-date increase in New York is around 5%. Granted, this increase is on top of a much greater spike in crime that occurred in 2020, when the ‘Chinese virus’ was supposed to disappear by April but managed to stick around.

              On the other hand, what is alarming is the increase in shootings from last year to this. The increase from 2020 to 2021 in the number of people shot is up by 22%, the number of shooting incidents is up by almost 30%.  To quote Grandpa, this is ‘nisht gut.’

              Now if that dude from Scarsdale wants to walk around East New York or one of the other high-crime Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy (‘do or die’) instead of going down to his Wall Street office at Morgan Stanley and getting to work, he probably should be carrying a Glock or a Sig because, after all, why would he ever want to go anywhere without being able to exercise his 2nd-Amendment ( and God-given) ‘right’ to defend himself against crime?

              But you can’t just walk around New York City with a gun in your pocket the way you can walk around in places where the state legislature has wisely given residents the freedom to strap on a gun. Because in New York City, the Sullivan law makes it almost impossible for the ‘good guys’ to carry guns. It’s only the ‘bad guys’ who carry guns.

              Now the fact that the ‘bad guys’ who commit all that gun violence are using their guns to shoot other ‘bad guys’ happens to be an aspect of gun violence that is usually overlooked. Know how many murders occurred last week in the area around Wall Street? None. Know how many shootings were reported in that same area? None.

              But that dude from Scarsdale who comes into the city every day completely unarmed is making plans to move to Florida because he’ll be able to protect himself from crime once he settles down in the Gunshine State.

              I love how the discussion about gun violence continues to fill the room with hot air.

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The Brennan Center Gives Us An Impotant Report On Violent Crime.

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The Brennan Center has just released an important and authoritative report on crime trends in the United States, and its discussion of the murder rate in major U.S. cities is particularly significant for the gun violence prevention (GVP) community. This is because guns are the tools of choice for people who commit homicides, and were it not for the use of guns in serious assaults, our homicide rate would not be 2 to 7 times higher than what occurs in the rest of the OECD.

urban             The not so good news about the Brennan Report is that it is based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report whose data is admittedly less than exact. The really good news, on the other hand, is that the report focuses on murder, which is the one serious crime category for which the numbers are usually correct. The report covers 1991 through 2016, a period during which violent crime fell by roughly 50%, although the jury is still out in terms of explaining how and why such a significant drop actually took place. In fact, the best evaluation of the different ‘crime decline’ theories was also published by the Brennan Center in 2015.

The pro-gun community celebrated the crime decline after 1991 because it coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of personally-owned guns, particularly in the years following Obama’s electoral victory in 2008. In particular, the contrast between crime rates and gun-ownership numbers allowed Gun-nut Nation to promote one of its favorite narratives, namely, that more guns equals less crime because the ‘bad guys’ are afraid that anyone they attack might respond with a gun. It’s a clever argument but cannot be supported by data, credible studies or truth.  Gee – what a surprise that pro-gun advocates would advance a theory which has no basis in facts.

The Brennan study, on the other hand, breaks down homicide data in the largest 30 American cities, but I wish the report would have contained an estimate for what percentage of all homicides occurred in these 30 sites, as well as a comparison between homicides which occurred within the cities themselves, as opposed to the relevant Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in which these cities happen to be.  A 2006-2007 CDC study found that for gun homicides, the MSA total was almost twice as high as specific city totals, and I am not sure that the UCR data can be analyzed to give a clear picture of homicide in MSAs.

But that’s a limitation of the FBI data, it’s not a criticism of the Brennan Center report itself.  In fact, what the report clearly shows is that the recent spurt in homicides, which has provoked the usual hysteria from the latest gang of crime-fighters led by Donald Trump, is actually confined to a handful of cities, whereas the overall violent crime numbers in the U.S. keep going down.

The pro-gun gang would like to have it both ways. On the one hand they want to take credit for the continued crime decline by going on about how this trend is because so many people own and carry guns. On the other hand, they don’t miss any opportunity to promote the sale of more guns by reminding everyone that the ‘good guy,’ (a.k.a. the armed citizen) is what keeps the ‘bad guy’ away.  And here is where the new Brennan study is so important, because it points out that the recent spurt in homicides has actually only occurred in three urban sites: Baltimore, Chicago and D.C. As for other major urban centers, murder is up in some, down in others, but there’s certainly no massive, national ‘crime wave’ of the sort that Trump and Sessions would like you to believe.

The Brennan researchers deserve our thanks for analyzing the FBI data in clear and convincing terms. But this still leaves us with the bigger question, namely, what do we do in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and DC? “I’ll send in the feds,” tweets Trump. Yea, right.

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