Willful blindness about America’s violent crime wave

The wave of violent crime in America is so pronounced that the mainstream media can’t help but report it. But that doesn’t mean the media must mention some obvious reasons why the nation might be experiencing the surge of violence.

This weekend, the Washington Post featured two stories on the the crime wave. This one focused on crime in Prince Georges County, Maryland, a predominantly black county just outside of Washington, D.C. This one reported on the nationwide surge.

According to the Post, Prince Georges County had suffered at least 56 killings as of this Sunday afternoon. Last year at the same time, the number was 30. And guess what. “For the first time in a long time, lawmakers say, residents are once again citing safety as a top concern.”

To what does the Post attribute the County’s rise in violent crime? “The pandemic, historic unemployment, and ebbing social services.”

But one can infer from the Post’s article itself that even if these are causes, they are probably not the only ones. The Post’s team of reporters (it took three of them to produce the story) note that the County beat back a previous crime wave in part “by putting more officers in the streets [and] targeting high-crime neighborhoods.”

Might it be that the current crime wave results at least in part from insufficient policing? After all, the County’s police department is the smallest it has been since 2012, according to the Post. And with the way the police is treated these days, it’s not clear why the officers who remain in the force would want to be in the streets actively targeting high crime neighborhoods.

Isn’t it also possible that Prince Georges County is experiencing more violent crime because of all the criminals who have been released from prison? Clearly, these are plausible explanations. But the Post refuses to consider them.

The Post’s other crime story features more of the same tap dancing. The title is “Officials worry the rise in violent crime portends a bloody summer.” We’ve already had a violent winter and spring. According to the Post:

Scores of cities across the country have reported double-digit increases in shootings and homicides. In Columbus, Ohio, police have counted at least 80 homicides this year, more than double the same period last year. Bigger cities also continue to see increases. In Chicago, 195 people had been killed as of early May, the highest number in at least four years, according to police statistics. Nearly 1,300 people had been shot, according to a Chicago Tribune database that tracks such incidents.

In Atlanta, the homicide rate is up 50 percent over this time last year, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) said she and her police commanders have been struggling to come up with concise reasons as they brace for a potentially rough summer.

Concise reasons? How about the Atlanta mayor’s mistreatment of the police officer who killed a criminal who was violently resisting arrest and shooting at him? Given the mayor’s lack of support, what incentives do Atlanta’s cops have to engage in the kind of proactive policing that will reduce violent crime?

Why bother to confront criminals at all? You might have to shoot one and then be fired and prosecuted for murder.

These questions have probably occurred to Mayor Bottoms, but she’s not letting on. Instead, according to the Post, “she is considering a range of possibilities for the violence, including long-lasting emotional and psychological issues found among so-called long-haul victims of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.”

Sure. Got a headache due to a past bout with covid? Feeling dizzy? Go out and shoot somebody.

It’s odd that the Post, at the same time it blames job loss and isolation due to the pandemic for violent crime, worries that “the violence could be especially pronounced this [summer] as Americans emerge back into society after a year of coronavirus-related shutdowns and restrictions.” If the pandemic’s restrictions and economic impacts caused the surge in violent crime, why would the end of the restrictions and the lessening of the impacts make the situation worse?

Like Mayor Bottoms, the Post is tying itself in knots trying to avoid two obvious possible explanations for the crime wave — less policing and more violent criminals released from prison.

This isn’t a case of overthinking the problem. It’s a case of refusing to speak candidly about it for political and ideological reasons.

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