The Washington Post on the murder epidemic in America’s cities

When I read this frontpage headline in the paper edition of yesterday’s Washington Post — “Cities look to halt deadly surge” — my first thought was that there is no significant surge in deaths from the coronavirus in our cities. But the Post wasn’t writing about the pandemic. It was writing about murders.

Yes, the Washington Post has finally acknowledged the epidemic of violent crime in America. No more emphasis on how the homicide rate is lower now than in the 1990s. It is, but that doesn’t make anyone feel safe — nor should it.

The Post’s article fails to live up to the promise of its title. Reporter Griff Witte seems uncertain as to why homicides are surging.

Is it “the coronavirus’ scars”? Is it “a breakdown in trust between police [forces] and the communities they serve”? Is it “the flood of illegal guns”? These are Witte’s prime suspects.

Eventually, he mentions “police departments stretched thin by attrition.” But Witte never gets around to explaining the attrition itself. Might it stem from lack of public support for, and constant demonizing of, police officers by liberals, including those at the Washington Post? Of course. See Baltimore’s experience.

Witte quotes the Fresno, California police chief who says “stimulating interest in joining the department has been challenging.” I wonder why.

Much of Witte’s article is devoted to suggesting that things might be turning around on the homicide front. He cites a few cities that experienced significant reductions in the number of homicides last year.

Complete nationwide figures for 2021 have not yet been released. But even if they were to show a decrease from 2020 — when homicides increased by nearly 5,000 from 2019 and reached a two-decade high — there wouldn’t be much solace in that.

Witte is interested in what might have caused the decrease in homicides in the few cities he mentions. Fair enough. He cites three factors: (1) measures to improve relations between the police and the community, (2) measures to address “the root causes of crime,” and (3) proactive policing, including a focus on patrolling the areas where most homicides occur.

As to the first factor, if relations between the police and the non-criminal community were as bad as the left has made them out to be, then it’s impossible to believe that, in one year, they were repaired to the point needed to affect the crime rate. As to the second, the root causes of crime can’t be ameliorated appreciably in a year

As to the third factor, BINGO.

But does the ACLU know about this targeted policing? Does the Biden Justice Department?

It wasn’t long ago — like maybe last week — that the left was complaining that the “over-policing” of black neighborhoods was oppressing African-Americans and skewing the black crime rate. It wasn’t all that long ago — like during the Obama years — that the DOJ was expressing the same concern.

Are we finally over that? Maybe. But the chief of police in Columbus, Ohio says that in using “data analysis, technological surveillance, and old-fashioned intelligence gathering” to identify areas in need of extra policing, she is careful, in the Post’s words, “not to overly rely on arrests and other shows of force.”

It’s never a good idea to “overly rely” on anything, but there is no good substitute for arresting criminals or else showing enough force to deter them from committing crimes. Cities probably won’t be able to halt the deadly surge in homicides if they pretend otherwise.

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