Violent crime is rapidly rising. Violent criminals have little fear of being caught or held accountable. Mass shooters (the majority of which are street-level criminals) live or die for notoriety, fame, and fear.
Criminals (or others contemplating violence) need to believe that society and cops will respond swiftly thus dramatically increasing the probability of arrest and the certainty of a long prison sentence. Violent offenders need to be universally and strongly condemned by all.
Communities, cities, and law enforcement need to be on the same page. That’s not happening in many cities. Unfortunately, there are few signs that it will happen at all. We seem unwilling or unable to have an honest conversation with the American public.
As a writer and contributor to nationally syndicated television shows, podcasts and publications, I’m invited to answer questions about rising violence. The focus of this article is street-level violence which creates far more carnage than mass shootings; there are well over 19,000 homicides.
But, literally, no one cares because the victims of street violence are mostly young people of color. It’s African American communities that are bearing the brunt of the violence, NBC News. People justifiably are very concerned about mass shootings but the real death toll is on our streets.
Part of my dismay regarding media coverage from politicians is that they routinely lie to or mislead the American public. I watched the mayor of Kansas City on CBS’s Sunday Morning talk about police getting aggressive as to taking guns off the streets and going after repeat offenders.
But we have lost close to 14,000 police officers (with more in the process of leaving) after massive riots and endless criticism of police use of force resulting in cops reluctant to be proactive.
How do you get guns off the streets of American cities or enforce red flag laws with vastly fewer officers with an overwhelming aversion to taking more risks? No police officer wants to end up on the front page of newspapers when inevitable mistakes happen. All stops are dangerous. Many (most?) involve people with mental illness or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol during arrests.
But the issues go far beyond that. There are short and long-term solutions. But there is little on the table to quickly stop growing violence. We are going to live with this for the foreseeable future.
When interviewed, I point out that the country has lost close to 14,000 police officers and undoubtedly there are thousands more getting ready to leave. Police morale is at an all-time low.
Families are insisting that their loved ones leave policing. There are a record number of police homicides where half of the murdered officers did not even engage their assailants. Police proactivity (the only modality with a research base indicating that it reduces crime per the National Academy of Sciences) has become almost nonexistent.
Progressive prosecutors are dropping thousands of cases. We’ve spent the last seven years demanding that the police be defunded and telling cops that they are less than worthy of public support.
We release people on bail regardless of their dangerousness. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent criminals serve less than three years in prison. Violence has increased since 2015 for most years. Fear of crime is at an all-time high.
Yet progressive and mainstream media publications applaud the above. According to them, we over incarcerate, overcharge, over arrest and over prosecute leading to an unjust system that targets those at the fringe of our society.
What we need, they suggest, is a fairer justice system that focuses on keeping people out of the process. Many progressives applauded the riots that cost insurance companies over two billion dollars in claims. They say that law enforcement is brutalizing people. They demand that cops be held accountable.
The result of all this is 65,000 additional violent crimes per the FBI and people, businesses, and economic prosperity leaving cities. Violence is like COVID; it impacts everyone. The psychological damage inflicted on all crime victims is immense.
Purpose of This Article
This article is based on new plans to address violence in Washington, D.C., and cities throughout the country. It’s my opinion that all are doomed to failure because they ignore the impact of the riots and disregard the basics of the justice system and criminology.
An Example-Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. may be the best-positioned city in the country to tackle violence. Much of the justice system belongs to well-funded federal agencies, with the exception of the Metropolitan Police Department, the juvenile justice system, the jail, and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The Attorney General prosecutes juvenile crime. Yet even the non-federal D.C. agencies (especially the police department) get significant federal funds.
The prosecutor, the courts, parole and probation and pretrial services are federal. Their pay and caseloads are some of the best in the country. Convicted offenders in D.C. serve 85 percent of their sentences in federal prisons.
D.C has endless employment opportunities. The unemployment rate for the metropolitan area is 3.5 percent. There are an endless number of federal and government jobs that do not require a college degree. The economy is almost recession-proof with the extensive presence of federal and local government agencies.
D.C. has the best ratio of police officers to citizens among large cities in the US, WUSA.
There are an endless array of crime-related think tanks in D.C. along with the headquarters of major federal criminal justice agencies. The media is filled with justice-savvy reporters who cover every aspect of the justice system. The best of the best are in D.C.
So D.C. is ridiculously well positioned with the money and talent and a growing economy that is the envy of every other jurisdiction in the country. Yet crime in D.C. is quickly growing more violent.
D.C. Crime Statistics
In 2021, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reported 226 homicides — the highest annual murder count seen in the nation’s capital in nearly 20 years. Only 42% of those homicide investigations were closed.
In 2022, homicides are down 6% year-to-date, with 59 reported so far this year compared to 63 at this time last year. The number of assault incidents with deadly weapons remains unchanged, with 457 reported this year compared to 455 reported last year, and robberies are up 54%, with 803 incidents reported this year compared to 521 at the same time last year.
Total violent crime is up 25%, and property crime is up 7%.
Summation of D.C.’s Crime Report
A data-driven report published by D.C.’s independent Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) outlines 16 short- and long-term strategies for reducing violent crime. Editor’s note, I have been a consultant to the CJCC.
It includes setting up a “Peace Room” which would have dedicated full-time data and crime analysts, violence reduction managers, and assigned liaisons from various government agencies to review and respond to shootings in real time.
In addition to the police response, the team would dispatch outreach and violence interrupters to the scene. The authors of the report suggest the number of violence intervention workers in the city should be increased as well. The report also recommends weekly reviews of shootings in the District.
The “Gun Violence Reduction Strategic Plan” also focuses on Community Transformation including a guaranteed income pilot program to reduce poverty as well as expanded blight abatement.
The city has already implemented a number of violence prevention programs including Building Blocks DC, focusing on areas in the city where the most gun violence occurs, and the Pathways Program, which helps prior offenders find work.
“The District is unique in that it is one of the few cities in the country that has the needed talent, ability, and resources to drastically reduce gun violence in the city,” the report said. “However, it is lacking the political commitment, coordination, and a coherent strategy to reduce gun violence.”
Last year, the city recorded the highest number of homicides in 17 years. At least 226 people were killed. The goal of the roadmap is to reduce the number of homicides, non-fatal shootings and gun-armed robberies by 10% from the previous year, WTOP.
For those interested, the full report is available at DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
So What’s Wrong With DC’s And Most Urban Plans?
We refuse to acknowledge that the riots and protests regarding police use of force have created an exodus of cops and police departments that refuse to engage in proactive policing, the only modality with a research base indicating that it reduces crime. Cities throughout the country are stating that they don’t have enough cops to meet basic needs.
Because of this arrests are down considerably. Correctional numbers are at record lows. Recidivism is sky high with repeat offenders. Fewer are being held accountable. Released criminal offenders are called “returning citizens.” Offenders on supervision are referred to as “clients.” There are more reports on the harm incarceration produces than those acknowledging the havoc created by criminals.
We have tossed out the traditional criminal justice system as biased and heavy-handed and there are endless thousands of progressives who applaud from their safe suburban homes.
Ever drive through D.C.? There are bars on most windows and doors. People are afraid. Kids are routinely murdered or assaulted. There are plenty of places that people avoid in the nation’s capital.
Discovering That Growing Violence Doesn’t Have A Solution
Criminals or others contemplating violence need to believe that society and cops will respond swiftly thus increasing the probability of arrest and the certainty of a long prison sentence. They need to be universally and strongly condemned by all for inflicting massive harm on victims and the overall community.
Unfortunately, that’s not happening. For years we focused far more on the plight of those incarcerated than victims or we harshly criticize “all” in law enforcement for the sins of a few.
And we wonder why we have our current problems with violence?
The justice system in D.C. and throughout the country is mired in unproductive solutions because of an endless debate as to the efficacy of traditional practices.
Yes, we should divert first-time nonviolent offenders. Yes, we shouldn’t condone the illegal use of force by police officers. Yes, not everyone needs to go to prison. Yes, we should be providing treatment services to offenders. No, not everyone on parole and probation needs to be under supervision for years. We should be supportive of offenders trying to stay out of the system.
But there must be accountability for people who have caused so much harm. That accountability needs to be based on the seriousness of the crime and the offender’s criminal history. If that means incarceration and longer sentences, so be it. The US Sentencing Commission stated that longer prison sentences reduces crime.
So much of the crime and violence in D.C and other cities is committed by juveniles. When police question juveniles “about their involvement” in a crime, the juveniles “are telling the detectives that they know there’s no penalty, so they don’t care.”
We need to apologize to cops for stereotyping all one million police employees as uncaring and brutal. Anyone capable of such statements is capable of any “ism.” If we want to stop the flow of cops leaving, then give them a reason to stay.
Per the D.C. police union chief, “We’ve seen almost 700 officers leave over the past two years, and that’s a significant number of them,” the union chair said. “… Right now, it’s our total strength in sworn-in police officers is right around 3,500. The mayor is saying that we need 4,000. The chief agrees with that. The union agrees with that. I think … the minimum that we should have is 4,000.” Cities throughout the country are having problems with the most basic of services because of a loss of cops.
We must acknowledge that the protests and riots regarding the use of force have devastated public safety and confidence. Criminology is filled with endless references to riots taking a toll that lasts for decades. The economic impact alone insures that affected areas will never recover economically until a considerable amount of time passes.
We must understand that child abuse and neglect is “the” root cause of crime and violence. There are many people in the justice system who have well-documented mental health and substance abuse problems resulting in brain damage and PTSD simply by living in high-crime communities.
The emphasis on “gun violence” is misplaced. Polls vary on the number of firearms in private hands in the United States. The estimates range from 350 to 400 million with the vast majority being Constitutionally protected handguns, shotguns, and hunting rifles.
“Controlling” private firearms is a daunting challenge considering the vast majority of gun violence involves handguns (including m
I have no issues with universal background checks or limiting the size of magazines or placing restrictions on AR 15s but I equally understand that it’s a symbolic gesture only.
Again, the vast majority of violent crimes and mass shootings are done with handguns. All the offender has to do is purchase multiple magazines and a high-powered hunting rifle.
By the way, would we have massive private firearm ownership if violence and record fear of crime wasn’t so high?
Red Flag Laws
Red flag laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill? Who’s going to enforce it with huge numbers of cops leaving? Who’s going to create the list? Who’s going to create the definitions? As soon as someone tries, the ACLU will challenge it and the courts will take years to litigate.
Law enforcement has instantaneous ACLU challenges when creating lists of “known” criminals with documented criminal histories. It will be an expensive nightmare except for those with a formal diagnosis of mental health commitment. But we all know that mental illness doesn’t mean criminality and mental health changes from year to year. Who is going to keep track of all of this?
It’s Your Responsibility
The solutions for violence are not the responsibility of law enforcement. Criminology 101 clearly states that citizens and communities are responsible for policing themselves. No amount of cops are going to stop you from beating your wife behind closed doors. Whether you choose to do hard drugs or buy stolen items or beat the hell out of an enemy behind your house or not snitch doesn’t depend on a cop on the corner. It’s YOUR decision. Communities control crime. Communities need to take responsibility for their conditions. Stop putting the blame on law enforcement.
But it’s obvious that politicians will not blame the people who elect them. That would be political suicide. Citing child abuse or community reluctance to police themselves is a nonstarter. Having President Biden apologize to law enforcement for the vastly unjust stereotyping of all one million police employees because a few engaged in criminal conduct would simply alienate his base.
Proactive policing is the ONLY modality with a track record of data indicating that it works to reduce crime. The jury is out on violence interrupters or anything else. New initiatives “may” have an impact; we simply don’t know.
To summarize, we need sufficient numbers of community-supported cops who will engage in proactive policing. We need prosecutors and judges who are willing to incarcerate for a significant number of years. We need citizens who will accept their responsibility for crime control. We need a populace that supports cops and willingly invites them into their communities.
We also need to dramatically increase funding for mental health and substance abuse programs. We need businesses to provide jobs to affected communities and offenders. Police officers need the best training and equipment money will buy.
Stop telling cops that they shouldn’t be warriors yet demand that they run into schools or places of worship or supermarkets with active, well-armed shooters. Didn’t President Biden just issue an executive order that places new limits on the transfer and purchase of military equipment by state and local police? Wouldn’t that equipment help cops rush mass shooters?
And the problem with violence isn’t due to COVID. Violence started rising considerably years before the disease appeared per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
We need to understand that “progressive” change has literally destroyed lives, economies, communities, and cities. Progressives will say that I’m simply fear-mongering and advocating a return to failed policies. This is from a group that continues to deny any rise in violence and who led the battle of demonizing one million police employees over the actions of a few with cries of defunding. They are the equivalent of climate deniers.
We need to condemn child abuse and neglect. We need separate agencies of nurses and social workers who will teach parents and mostly single mothers how to care for children per the federal government’s CrimeSolutions.
But the most important aspect of crime control is offender accountability. Report them, find them, prosecute them and give them a sentence worth remembering. That requires a willing, supportive populace.
So we know what it takes to control or reduce crime. But we won’t do it because we are afraid of criticism and political realities. So in the meantime, we create tens of thousands of additional violent crime victims and millions of people psychologically affected by victimization.
That’s why growing violence doesn’t have a quick solution. What I propose will only happen when citizens and politicians get truly sick of violence and the complete destruction of their cities. People demand change regarding mass shootings. What they get are meaningless gestures that have little to no impact.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.
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