Let us be clear: the heinous crime wave sweeping our country has nothing to do with COVID-19, as White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has suggested, but everything to do with progressive Democrats throttling law enforcement in our major cities.
This. Must. Stop.
It must stop especially because policies to reduce what Democrats call “mass incarceration,” which have included no-cash bail and looser enforcement of misdemeanors like shoplifting, are largely promulgated on a lie.
The Left would have us believe that hundreds of thousands of people, disproportionately individuals of color, are unfairly locked up for nonviolent crimes. Further, activists argue that releasing such offenders poses no threat to the public.
Neither of these statements is true. First, while some people in state and federal prisons are there for crimes categorized as “nonviolent,” that is not necessarily because they were arrested for a nonviolent crime. It is often because they have pled down to a lesser offense. Some 94% of people in jail have not been tried by a jury but have agreed to a plea deal.
A criminal charged with armed robbery, for instance, could plead guilty to possession of a deadly weapon, seeking a lesser sentence. A drug dealer might plead down to possession of an illegal substance. One 2015 study reveals that in the smaller federal prison system, which in 2020 housed 226,000 people, over 99% of those sentenced for drugs were accused of trafficking, not just possession. That’s how the system works.
In any event, most people in jail are there for good reasons. Of the 1.3 million individuals incarcerated in the state prison system in 2020, more than half – 713,000 – were locked up for violent crimes, including 183,000 in for murder and 165,000 in for rape and sexual assault. Only 45,000 were in for drug possession.
As to the wisdom of releasing people accused of violent crimes, we know that recidivism is huge; nearly every day someone already charged with a violent crime, like the accused in the Waukesha killings, commits another monstrous misdeed. We have one of the highest recidivism rates in the world; 76.6% of prisoners are rearrested within five years.
It is undoubtedly the case that some people are in jail for the wrong reasons or are serving excessive sentences. It is also true that keeping people in jail because they cannot afford bail can be unfair; prosecutors and judges must do a better job of distinguishing between those who are a danger to society and those who are not.
The Waukesha driver, let out on $1,000 bail, had a history of violence, and had recently been arrested for running over the mother of his child. Someone’s head should roll for allowing him back on the streets.
Our entire criminal justice system is being turned on its head to protect what is almost certainly a small portion of individuals mistakenly accused or who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The drive to eliminate cash bail – even for some homicides – and to no longer arrest people for misdemeanors like urinating in public means our streets are dirtier and less safe.
We must stop this craziness by electing candidates who promise to protect law-abiding citizens. That may be happening already.
In New York City, one of the first cities to dumb down law enforcement and experience soaring crime, newly elected Mayor Eric Adams, a former cop, defeated his progressive challengers by running on a promise to restore public safety. Among other policies, he championed “stop, question and frisk,” saying done properly, the approach would drive down crime.
Similarly, Atlanta’s citizens recently elected in a landslide a come-from-behind candidate who promised to address that city’s crime surge by increasing the number of police officers and going after gangs. Homicides are up 59% over 2019 in Atlanta; voters said, “Enough!”
These are promising outcomes, and we hope more will follow. But public policy should also address the real “root causes” of our country’s crime problem. And make no mistake – we do have a problem.
Widespread looting in our big cities is an outrage and will drive up prices as businesses pass along the high costs. The thievery has nothing to do with poverty resulting from the pandemic, as Psaki implies; retailers report these are well-orchestrated attacks on businesses by increasingly violent gangs who know they will suffer little harm if they are caught.
Homicides are also out of control.
The murder rate in the United States is five times what it is in Germany, and that was based on 2018 statistics. U.S. murders rose 29% in 2019. In 2019, the city of Baltimore had a murder rate of 58.3 per 100,000 residents. The murder rate in Nigeria, a country that our State Department declared too dangerous to visit? 34.5.
It is true that African Americans and to a lesser degree Hispanics are disproportionately jailed in the U.S. That’s because they commit more violent crimes. To bring about change, we must address some serious shortcomings, including the obvious: education.
In many cities, our public schools fail to educate minority children. As Eric Adams said recently: “Sixty-five percent of Black and Brown children don’t meet proficiency in the Department of Education.” How can we expect minority kids to become self-reliant and productive members of society when they cannot read or do math?
There are other issues, like better caring for the mentally ill, that might help stem violent crime.
But simply not enforcing the law and allowing criminals to take over our cities is not the answer, and Americans must not stand for it.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.