The FBI reported on Tuesday: “Preliminary figures indicate that law enforcement agencies throughout the nation showed an overall decrease of 0.8 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first 6 months of 2017 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2016. The violent crime category includes murder, rape (revised definition), robbery, and aggravated assault.” Similarly, property crimes “dropped 2.9 percent when compared with data for the same time period in 2016. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.”
As has been noted, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump have used rhetoric to suggest we’re experiencing a crime wave, which they — to no one’s surprise — blame on illegal immigrants in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago. This is balderdash.
As such, the Brennan Center for Justice put out a statement, “While preliminary, the FBI data contradict those who say there is some kind of nationwide crime wave. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, we have documented a consistent downward trend of violence in most major American cities.” Indeed, the latest statistics show that violent crimes dropped by 3.3 percent in cities with more than one million people.
Moreover, there is no documented correlation between an increased crime rate and cities that decline to turn over suspected illegal immigrants — without a warrant — to the feds. On the contrary, some specific cities that have been the targets of the administration’s ire have reduced crime while maintaining their approach to community policing and the handling of possibly illegal immigrants. The Post reported that Chicago “saw a drop in both murders and shootings in 2017, according to Chicago police statistics,” while “New York City saw a remarkable drop in murders, shootings and crime, with all three numbers continuing to decline.”
That is not to say there are not some blemishes. Violent crime in the South rose slightly (0.1 percent) while murders increased both there and in the Midwest (in contrast to the Northeast, where the crime rate dropped 4.1 percent and murders were down 5.6 percent). Violent crime in mid-sized cities — those with between 500,000 and one million residents — edged up 1.2 percent nationally. Other studies have found that murder rates spiked in cities such as Philadelphia, Charlotte and Baltimore.
It is noteworthy that Baltimore just fired its police commissioner, while two other high-ranking police officials resigned. The Associated Press reported:
Deputy Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, who has steadily risen through the ranks during a 30-year career with Baltimore’s police department, will take the helm of the force in a city struggling with a feverish pace of killings.
Following a record year in per-capita homicides, Baltimore’s mayor on Friday fired the city’s police commissioner after 2 1/2 years on the job and named DeSousa to the top post, saying a change in leadership was needed immediately. . . . The challenges facing DeSousa are numerous: the pervasive mistrust of many citizens due to a history of corruption and discriminatory police practices; a federal corruption investigation into a group of indicted officers; and the unsolved slaying of a detective that has produced rumors but no arrests.
[The new chief vowed] to reduce crime by putting more uniformed officers on the streets and saturating “hot spots,” an effort he said is already underway. He said he had a message for the city’s violent repeat offenders, a rotating cast of “trigger pullers” that law enforcement officials say are responsible for an outsized percentage of the city’s crime.
We see three takeaways from these facts: First, Sessions should stop scapegoating illegal immigrants and threatening cities with a loss of funds for not doing the feds’ job for them. Second, there are specific local problems that correlate with heavy-crime cities. Those need to be addressed locally, with federal officials there to enforce civil rights violations and anti-corruption measures. Third, we should duplicate police practices that work (such as those in New York City), and hold local officials accountable for the results.
In sum, Sessions and Trump will have to look elsewhere for evidence to demagogue their crusade against illegal immigrants.
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