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We've Started Back to Bloody Failure on Crime. Will We Wake Up?

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LifeZette has an eye-opening piece on crime and law enforcement, two issues that justifiably have entered the election debate.  Its article is ominously but accurately titled, "America in Decline, Part IV: Crime."  It features short essays by Steve Cook, a veteran federal prosecutor and President of the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys; David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; and yours truly, holding forth from (although not in any way representing) Georgetown Law.

Steve's and David's contributions are definitely worth your time.  Whether mine is is not for me to say, but, for those interested, I include it after the break.  Thank goodness LifeZette at last gives us a right-of-center source in Washington, DC to tell us the things we're not going to read in Politico or hear on MSNBC.

I start off on a less than cheerful note:


As 2016 winds down, America is in the midst of the most shocking surge in murders at least since Dwight Eisenhower was president. This is the second consecutive year of our killing spree; The Washington Post reported that murder in our 50 largest cities was up 17 percent in 2015, and TIME magazine reported in May that murders are up again in city after city this year. The Brennan Center, a liberal think tank, estimates that, nationally, the murder rate will increase 31.5 percent from 2014 to 2016.


When murder has increased by nearly a third in a scant two years, that is a national crisis; there's no other honest way to put it. The tragedy is that we know how to avert this -- and we know that we know because, for the 22 years before 2014, we cut the murder rate by more than half. America became a safer country than we had been since the baby boomers were in grade school.


The idea that our recent gargantuan increase in murder is just a statistical fluke, or has no understood cause, is nonsense. We know why murder went down and we know why it's going up. It went down in large measure because we got serious about crime and undertook reforms. We hired more police, began more aggressive and proactive policing, and incarcerated more criminals for longer terms. Many on the Left have referred to this as "incarceration nation;" a more honest term would be "crime reduction nation," and in short order we'll be yearning for the reductions that, through soft thinking and complacency, we have started to forfeit.


There are two wretched ironies here. One is that, as violent crime skyrockets, President Obama boasts that he has given clemency to more federal felons -- dozens with firearms as well as drug trafficking convictions -- than his last eleven predecessors combined. In the face of an unprecedented crime surge, the liberal "answer" is an unprecedented indulgence fest.


The second irony is that the victims of our new crime wave are, by a huge measure, disproportionately minorities. Contrary to the received wisdom of academia, the get-tough measures of the 1990s, undertaken by a Republican Congress and President Bill Clinton, did not burden black lives. To the exact contrary, they did more to save black lives than anything we had done since the civil rights movement. It would be a bloody mistake, as well as a tragedy, to turn away from we know works to re-embrace what we know fails.

 

9 Comments

Bill, you are an important voice on these issues.

One criticism--in my view, focusing on Obama's clemency is a tactical error. The focus should be the staggering drop in gun prosecutions under his watch, which is far greater in scope and almost certainly is a factor in the rise in big-city murder. Obama's hypocrisy is on full display here--he hates gun violence so much he reduces prosecutions of gun criminals. Hmmmm. Sounds like what he really doesn't like is guns in the hands of the law-abiding as a matter of right.

Obama has done a lot of bad things (Musa Ali Daqduq), but this is one of the worst.

Thanks. Next time the press asks me about this, I will bear in mind your wise reminder about the drop in gun prosecutions.

One of the many jaw-dropping facets of Obama's DOJ is how it has little problem with guns in the hands of criminals, but a big problem with guns in the hands of anyone else.

The whole thing is upside-down.

"The whole thing is upside-down."

Appalling is the word I'd choose. This is a crew that will stick guns in the faces of Gibson Guitar employees over wood, and decry Darren Wilson's right to defend himself. There is no limit to what they will do to impose their leftist will on us.

Do you think Prez Trump --- which is seeming more likely each day as Election Day approaches --- will effectively "wake us up"?

Is it time to get serious about who he might pick as AG and to replace Justice Scalia?

I am genuinely eager to hear from folks hear if they feel confident that Trump's "law and order" rhetoric will ultimately lead to more law and order if (when?) he gets in the Oval Office.

Why speculate--if he's elected, then we'll see. If not, then it was wasted energy.

"Do you think Prez Trump --- which is seeming more likely each day as Election Day approaches --- will effectively 'wake us up'"?

I have no idea what to expect from Mr. Trump. I like his list of potential SCOTUS nominees, but I don't know if the actual nominee (in the still unlikely event he is ever in a position to name one) will be from among the list.

I think the better way to help us wake up to two years' worth of an appalling increase in violent crime would be for the media to be as vocal about it as if we'd had, say, two years' worth of an appalling increase in infant mortality. But I'm not holding my breath. By far the media's main reaction to the horrifying murder spike has been dismissive and complacent.

"Is it time to get serious about who he might pick as AG and to replace Justice Scalia?"

It's certainly time to get more serious than (1) the accusation that Hillary is running a child sex ring with Anthony Weiner, or (2) the accusation that Trump is conspiring with Putin to hack the election returns. The degree of bile and unseriousness of this campaign is astounding.

To answer your question directly: It will be time to "get serious" if and when Mr. Trump wins, as federalist notes. But just to be clear, no one will "replace" Antonin Scalia. He was the singular legal giant of my generation. My wife and I feel his loss every day.

As to your third point: Law and order rhetoric is of some value, yes, certainly by contrast to the "pigs-in-a-blanket-fry-'em-like-bacon" rhetoric of the BLM movement Hillary so eagerly embraces. But I'm not that much into rhetoric as a crime-fighting measure. I'm into action -- action of the kind I discussed in LifeZette, such as proactive policing and sentencing that does more to incapacitate criminals and therefore to save lives (as was happening until two years ago).

You claim of media bias here, Bill, strikes me as misguided given that a lot more people know the murder-increase story (especially in places like Chicago) than are aware of this even-more-deadly 2015 crime story:

Traffic Deaths In 2015 Climb By Largest Increase In Decades: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/29/491854557/traffic-deaths-climb-by-largest-increase-in-decades

Running the numbers, while the "horrifying murder spike," accounted for about 1,500 more deaths in 2015, the horrifying9?) traffic fatality spike accounted for about 3,000 more deaths in 2015. (In addition, though I am disinclined to compare the nature/value of different victims, I suspect most traffic fatality victims are generally as or even more "innocent" than are many murder victims.)

Of particular concern for those who focus on "crime and consequences" is the fact that "About 30 percent of fatalities involved a drunken driver or speeding. Distracted driving was a factor in about 10 percent of auto deaths." In other words, and speaking roughly about the stats, illegal driving causes more deaths than ALL forms of homicide. How come the media does not talk about this fact --- especially given how much cheaper and easier it could to be to save lives on the roadway (e.g., ignition locks, red-light cameras, digital enforcement of speed limits)?

Dare I suggest that your concern about murders and not about traffic fatalities is a variation on the BLM movement --- you seem to think some lives matter and should get more media attention than others. (Joking here, but you get the point.)

Actually, my concern about the murder and violent crime spike, more so than the traffic fatalities spike, is accounted for by the fact that I know something about the former (am regarded as an expert in some troglodyte quarters) and essentially nothing about the latter. I've spent my professional life thinking and writing about crime (and, I like to believe, doing something about it).

I know zilch about cars or traffic engineering, although I guess I know enough to try to stay away from drivers who've been puffing that stuff the legalization of which I keep reading about on SL&P.

For what it's worth, we did strike a blow against drunk driving in the Supreme Court last term.

We only won half the case, but it was the more important half, IMHO. CJLF's brief by Kym Stapleton is here.

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