Should America be preparing for a national spike in crime?
In addition to what seems like a never ending stream of reports of violent incidents between police and citizens, community unrest and protests in the wake of heavily publicized cases like that of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, large cities like New York have reported an increase in violent crimes and gun violence.
Although there’s no doubt these incidents have shocked the nation and certain crimes have increased in some parts of the country, the question now is whether these events are a reflection of crime rates for the US as a whole.
Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal called, “The New Nationwide Crime Wave,” which generated a significant amount of buzz about crime rates around the country.
One of the most controversial points made in the article is that police are at greater risk for attack, and are afraid to serve their communities due to heavy criticism of their professional judgment when it comes to using force on the job.
She explains that the deaths of “Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police.”
Additionally, In New York, where there has been an impressive decline in crime over the past 20 years, crimes and homicides involving guns have increased. There have been 439 shootings so far this year, which is 20 percent higher than the number of shootings recorded in the same period in 2013.
Mac Donald suggests that this increase is a warning sign for a crime wave that is set to sweep across the rest of the country.
Although the information in Mac Donald’s article may be true, several other sources quickly refuted her claims, asserting that a new crime wave does not exist and her story is more alarmist than it is accurate.
Radley Balko, a criminal justice blogger for the Washington Post, countered McDonald’s claims with an article of his own a week later.
Balko argues that while anger against police brutality may be the cause of increased violence in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, they are certainly not the only issues involved.
“Two of the factors that cause homicides to soar in American cities are a sense of a loss of government legitimacy, and a loss of a feeling of belonging among outcast or historically oppressed groups,” Balko said, citing Randolph Roth’s, American Homicide.
When it comes to police homicides, Balko explains that several officers were tragically lost due to violence in Ferguson and Baltimore; however, those were isolated incidents that don’t represent the rest of the country’s more peaceful efforts.
Ultimately, Balko argues that Mac Donald’s points could prove to be true when the crime reports for 2015 are available, but for now, there’s not enough evidence to support such alarming claims.
Instead, her article is a distraction from the more important issue at hand, which is the relationship between police agencies and the communities they serve.
“There’s some data suggesting that the 20-year decline in violent crime may have hit bottom. In a country of 380 million people, you aren’t going to reduce crime to zero. In some cities, there have been some recent increases in some crimes, just as there were all throughout the crime drop,” he said.