Reader John D. writes:
The influential lefty propagandists at The Economist are attempting, yet again, to make the case for more American gun control. But in the process, they’re mostly indicting President Obama’s political agitation and interference with law enforcement.
The explosion of homicides in America’s major cities reported by The Economist took place in President Obama’s second term as he set the stage for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Other than liberalized concealed carry in some of these cities, there has been no reduction in gun control over the period in which The Economist found homicides had begun to skyrocket.
Indeed, many of the cities experiencing sharp increases in homicides over the last several years have intensified gun control and background checks for firearms purchasers. Case in point: Illinois.
The Economist makes a secondary case that that the explosive rise in homicide rates there is due to gangs and inferior quality police work. There may be some truth in this, but the youth gang issue is one of fragmentation and the police issue is one of inadequate numbers due to ridiculous municipal spending priorities.
Youth gang membership has changed little over the last 20 years, but each city block now seems to have its own gang creating many more opportunities for conflict. Politicians in large American cities downsized their police forces during the pre-Obama decline in crime rates so they could spend more of their revenues on lefty political misadventures and the increased burden of pension liabilities.
President Obama very much encouraged this spending diversion, starting with his reckless American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Spending at all levels of government de-coupled from the actual purposes of government. Case in point: Chicago.
MURDER, which grew rarer for 20 years, is on the rise again. But by how much? In 2015, the number of murders increased by 11% nationwide. During 2016, an escalation of gang violence in Chicago left 764 people dead in a city where 485 had been killed a year before. A dispute ensued over whether the Windy City was simply an isolated example or a barometer of a wider problem. National statistics for 2016 will not be released for eight months, but to get an early sense of the answer The Economist has gathered murder statistics for 2016 for the 50 cities with the most murders. These places contain 15% of the country’s population and around 36% of murder victims. Our numbers show that, in 2016, murders increased in 34 of the cities we tracked. Three cities experienced a spike in deaths sharper than the 58% suffered by Chicago. Since cities tend to reflect the country as a whole, this suggests that the murder rate is rising at its fastest pace since the early 1970s.
Today’s violence needs to be set in context. Despite the recent uptick, the murder rate in our 50 cities was lower in 2016 than it was in 2007, and for the 26 years before that. Criminologists disagree about why murder became less common. What they do agree on is that the improvement has been uneven. Newark, just ten miles from New York city, has a murder rate that is nine times higher than its neighbour’s. And unlike New York, where murder is at just 15% of its 1990 peak, in Newark the rate has barely budged.
After the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War on Cops”, offered a simple explanation for the rise in murder. The riots were a response to the killing of Michael Brown, a black man, by a police officer. The “Ferguson effect”, Mrs Mac Donald argued, occurred when police officers retreat from cities when relations with the people they serve became bitter, causing crime to go up nationwide. Murders and shootings did increase by 57% in St Louis, a city close to Ferguson, in the two years after Brown’s death. Similarly, when Freddie Gray died in the custody of Baltimore police in April 2015, murders and shootings in the city increased 70% during the year that followed. But we find little evidence for a broader “Ferguson effect” in the rest of the country. Among our 50 cities, data show that in the four months immediately after Brown’s death there was no change in the arrest rate for murder, and just a five percentage-point fall in the arrest rate for gun assaults. This does not look like a widespread retreat by the country’s police forces.
A stronger message from the individual murder records from the FBI for 50 cities is that the quality of police work, the availability of (usually illegal) guns and the chances of getting caught all matter a lot. This is partly because the motivation for murder is changing. Gang-related killings have steadily increased over the past 35 years, from just one in 100 murders in 1980 to nearly one in ten in 2015. Drug-related murders—which are likely to have some gang-related element—have increased in the past two years, after falling for two decades. In 2015 they accounted for one in 25 murders in big cities….
Read the whole thing here.
The current agitation for sentencing reform is likely to make this situation even worse. Note that the huge increase in major city homicides during 2016 found by The Economist has yet to be reported by the FBI in their Uniform Crime Reporting portal. That will come later this year.
This Obama legacy, left behind like a booby trap, presents a significant challenge for President Trump. He has a year or two at most to get this situation under control or he’ll be blamed for the increases in crime his predecessor’s policies have baked into the statistical cake. And we face a rising hue and cry from all of the usual suspects for more ever more restrictive gun control laws.