The Hill reports on a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll in which 77 percent of respondents said they are concerned that crime is rising in the nation’s cities. 46 percent of respondents said they are concerned about rising crime in their own communities. Although reported by The Hill, the poll apparently has not yet been posted.
Mark Penn, Harvard CAPS/Harris polling director, noted that respondents are concerned that prosecutors are not prosecuting crimes. However, they place blame for the increase mainly on protests and high unemployment.
Although crime and violence may not actually have increased in America’s cities so far this year, homicide is surging. In 25 large cities, it is up 16.1 percent compared to 2019. New York’s homicide rate for the first half of 2020 is up 23 percent over 2019, according to the city’s police department. In June, it was 130.3 percent higher than in June 2019. In addition, it’s likely that the public’s concern about crime in cities is also fueled by the anarchy it sees in the streets of Seattle and Portland, for example.
The surge in homicides can’t be explained by unemployment. Burglaries maybe, but not homicides. We’ve had high unemployment rates at other times in modern history without a surge in murders.
“Protests” don’t explain the surge in homicides, either, at least not directly. There has been a massive amount of property damage during riots, but not many killings.
The surge in murders is due, I believe, to (1) the failure to keep criminals off the street and (2) the decrease in policing. The first of these problems results mainly from the release of prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic and the abolition of bail. The second factor stems from the war on policing being staged by BLM and Democratic mayors and prosecutors.
If deaths in the U.S. from the Wuhan coronavirus decrease significantly, crime in our cities might become a winning issue for President Trump. Joe Biden has not taken a tough line on crime. He seems unwilling to do so for fear of alienating the left. Like the Democratic Party as a whole, Biden is out of step with public opinion, as reflected in the new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll.
If Biden becomes president, the issue of crime in the streets is likely to plague his administration, the way it plagued Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s — until politicians like Joe Biden finally began to take the issue seriously, rather than as a “dog whistle” for racism.
In the case of Joe Biden, it’s proving difficult to teach an old dog an old trick.