Jeff Sessions has written an excellent article for the New York Post called “Blame woke pols for the nation’s needless spike in murders.” Most of what Sessions says will be familiar to Power Line readers. However, it’s great to have someone of Sessions’ stature publishing these arguments in an outlet with the kind of circulation the New York Post enjoys.
Sessions starts by noting that from 2019 to 2020, the U.S. murder rate rose by an astounding 27 percent, the largest annual increase in at least the past 100 years. Even during the crime wave at the start of Prohibition, the murder rate never rose by more than 19 percent in a year.
In the past three decades, the largest increase until now occurred in 2015. Not coincidentally, this was the year after the Ferguson riots, which produced the Ferguson effect. But even then, the murder rate rose 11 percent, less than half of the increase in 2020.
Sessions correctly assigns responsibility for the 2020 surge in murders to “woke politicians.” He writes:
Tragically, they ignored the warnings of law-enforcement officials and abandoned policies shown to work, replacing them with naïveté and wishful thinking. The results are now clear for all to see. . . .
[W]ithout serious thought, law-enforcement policies that saved our cities from violence and disorder [in the 1990s and the first part of this century] — providing safety especially for poorer and minority communities — were abandoned. Big-city mayors turned against the police, effectively telling them to cease and desist. The FBI reports that nationwide arrests fell an incredible 25 percent in 2020 alone, neatly matching the 27 percent increase in the murder rate.
In response to the surge in murders, as well as aggravated assaults which rose 12 percent from 2019 to 2020, the largest one-year increase in more than a third of a century, left-wing organs like the Washington Post and The Atlantic sometimes point out that property crime is down. Sessions brushes that argument aside:
A continuation of the longstanding decline in burglaries, during a period when far more people were staying at home, hardly compensates for a huge increase in murders.
Of course it doesn’t.
Sessions doesn’t discuss the role of the failure these days to hold criminals in prison — a trend Sessions fought valiantly against as a Senator successfully opposing jailbreak legislation and as Attorney General trying to keep Donald Trump from supporting it (as Trump eventually did). I think Sessions is right to focus on weakened policing as the primary cause of the 2019-2020 national murder spree. But we shouldn’t forget about our under-incarceration problem.