We’re letting small time criminals off with less punishment, and it could be making our country more violent…


Has the dramatic decrease in arrests for lower-level crime led to the twenty-eight percent national increase in violent crimes?

Will cops ever return to aggressing, self-initiated, proactive policing? Do we want them to?

There are many observes of justice and crime policies who saw this coming. We’ve noted that arrests have been declining across the board for several years.

There are endless issues to consider including the debate over lower-level arrests and the impact it has on crime and the quality of life.


Many of the arrests that caused controversy regarding police use of force were not felonies. Law enforcement has taken a tremendous about of heat through the bad publicity these events create. It’s changed policing.

The research is clear; police agencies are struggling for recruits and retention, data supports the notion that cops are less willing to engage in self-initiated, proactive policing, and the US Department of Justice states that there is a twenty-eight percent increase in overall violent crime.

Crimes reported to law enforcement decreased three percent. The percentage of crimes reported to law enforcement has fallen.

Cities throughout the country are suffering through increased crime that threatens to redefine their ability to offer prosperity and citizen safety.


The Data

The Wall Street Journal offered, “Arrests for Low-Level Crimes Are Plummeting, and the Experts Are Flummoxed” that are summarized below.

From MSN News: (direct quotes-rearranged)

New statistical studies show a deep, yearslong decline in misdemeanor cases across New York and California and in cities throughout other regions, with arrests of young black men falling dramatically.

New York City’s misdemeanor arrest totals have fallen by half since peaking in 2010, with rates of black arrests sinking to their lowest point since 1990. The arrest rate for black men in St. Louis fell by 80% from 2005 to 2017, a period that saw steep declines in simple assault and drug-related offenses. In Durham, N.C., arrest rates for blacks fell by nearly 50% between 2006 and 2016.

Other studies revealed similar patterns. A December report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that misdemeanor rates in California declined by close to 60% between 1989 and 2016.

Los Angeles police made 112,570 misdemeanor arrests in 2008 and 60,063 by 2017, largely driven by declines in driving and alcohol-related offenses, according to John Jay’s research network.



A forthcoming paper by law professors at George Mason University and the University of Georgia also found sizable arrest declines in rural Virginia, San Antonio and other jurisdictions.

Other indications include shrinking caseloads reported by the National Center for State Courts and arrest tallies by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showing steady declines in disorderly conduct, drunkenness, prostitution and loitering violations.

In Durham, the arrest rate for 18- to 20-year-old black men dropped by more than 70% from 2008 to 2016, according to the John Jay’s research collaborative, MSN.


Cops Pulling Back

From the Crime Report (direct quote):

The shrinking misdemeanor totals may be evidence that police are pulling back on sweeping quality-of-life enforcement and focusing instead on “hot spots,” neighborhood strips and streets with clusters of gun violence and gang activity, The Crime Report.

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Is Proactive Policing Dead?

There was a time before aggressive, proactive policing became popular when cops did routine patrols and responded to calls for service. The philosophy was that officers should be judicious as to arrests to insure quality criminal cases and to be available for major accidents and crimes in progress.

Crime began to explode in the late 1960s and there were decades of crime and violence that threatened to destroy cities, economies, jobs, education and a way of life. People left cities by the millions. Society and the media demanded answers.

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign wanted dramatically increased arrests. Family rights advocates wanted more arrests for domestic violence that eventually morphed into arrests for both participants.

Community meetings became shouting matches where residents demanded that cops get rid of drug users, prostitutes, and troublemakers, and citizens didn’t care how they did it. The media demanded action. They accused cops of simply not caring.

The justice system responded with a style of aggressive policing where “quality of life” misdemeanors became important. Blight or anything that caused fear was attacked. The New York City Miracle resulted in a huge increase in arrests and citations partially designed to legally search people for guns and major drugs.  Crime plummeted and people reinvested in neighborhoods. Property values skyrocketed.

The thought was that if you took care of the little things, the big things would take care of themselves.

Today, there are parts of New York City that are peaceful tourist attractions that were literally considered out of control. Cities throughout the United States rushed to emulate the New York City model and create their own aggressive, proactive policing. US Department of Justice research stated that proactive policing worked to reduce crime. The prison population dramatically increased.

Crime entered one of the largest sustained, twenty-year plus decreases of over seventy percent for some categories.

Criminologicaly, the thought was that law enforcement needed to bring peace to communities so residents could reestablish their own forms of social control.


Another Reexamination?

The negative publicity regarding police use of force has been relentless. It was inevitable that cops were going to pull back and return to the days of quality arrests and routine patrols. It was inevitable that law enforcement was going to have a recruitment and retention problem. It was inevitable that police suicides and PTSD and other forms of dysfunctional behavior would surface.

Cops once saw themselves as peacemakers and protectors. Now, that seems to be over. If you take that away, why be a cop? This decade has been a reexamination of the heart and soul of policing and crime control.

Officers believe that there is a literal or figurative war on cops. Families are demanding that cops get out of policing, and to get out now.

Violent crime increased by twenty-eight percent per the US Department of Justice. Citizens in numerous cities are begging cops to return to quality of life policing. The list of cities where crime is considered to be a significant problem is too large to list.



Business people are complaining and closing stores. Tourism is greatly impacted. Jobs are lost. Education is negatively impacted with massive teacher shortages. Women are increasingly bothered and abused.

Some see the decrease in arrests for lower-level crimes as nothing short of wonderful. Fewer people are going to have a criminal history which means increased prosperity for individuals and families, they claim.

Many cops obviously want the pullback. Aggressing policing puts them at risk. There is no such thing as a safe arrest. There are crowds in Baltimore, New York and many cities that surround officers making arrests with taunts and aggression. New York City has just gone through a summer where gallons of liquid were thrown at officers.

This will be a time of yet another reassessment in crime control. There will be many who celebrate a recalibration of gentler policing and fewer arrests. They will suggest that officers can spend their time with community members not as enforcers but as peacemakers.

But with rapidly increasing national violent crime, and crime and disorder becoming major issues in many American cities, society will have to choose what it wants, and none of those choices will come easy of cheaply.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.


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