New York City has turned its back on the crime fighting policies that turned it from one of the most unsafe cities in the 1990s to one of the safest in the 2000s, and it is beginning to show, as this article from City Journal elaborates.
Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants? For more than a decade, activists have demanded the end of proactive policing, claiming that it was racist. Pedestrian stops—otherwise known as stop, question, and frisk—were attacked as a bigoted oppression of minority communities. In March 2015, for example, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago Police Department of “targeting” minorities because stops are “disproportionately concentrated in the black community.”
Equally vilified was Broken Windows policing, which responds to low-level offenses such as graffiti, disorderly conduct, and turnstile jumping. Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King launched a petition after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder “meet with local black and brown youth across the country who are dealing with ‘Zero Tolerance’ and ‘Broken Windows’ policing.”
Well, the police got the message. In response to the incessant accusations of racism and the heightened hostility in the streets that has followed the Michael Brown shooting, officers have pulled back from making investigatory stops and enforcing low-level offenses in many urban areas. As a result, violent crime in cities with large black populations has shot up—homicides in the largest 50 cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015. And the Left is once again denouncing the police—this time for not doing enough policing. King now accuses police in Chicago of not “doing their job,” as a result of which “people are dying.” Stops in Chicago are down nearly 90 percent this year through the end of March, compared with the same period in 2015; shootings were up 78 percent and homicides up 62 percent through April 10. Over 100 people were shot in the first ten days of 2016. King scoffs at the suggestion that a new 70-question street-stop form imposed on the CPD by the ACLU is partly responsible for the drop-off in engagement. If American police “refuse to do their jobs [i.e., make stops] when more paperwork is required,” he retorts, “it’s symptomatic of an entirely broken system in need of an overhaul.” This is the same King who as recently as October fumed that “nothing happening in this country appears to be slowing [the police] down.”
Let’s examine the dilemma imposed on cops by activists like King. On March 25, two groups of youths were fighting on a street corner on Chicago’s West Side. If Chicago officers had dispersed them and questioned anyone who seemed to be harboring a gun, a Black Lives Matter sympathizer would have seen only racial harassment. The ACLU would have logged any documented stops into its stop database in preparation for its next racial profiling lawsuit; the Justice Department, which is now investigating the Chicago Police Department for racism, would have also tallied the stops as evidence of bias. But the police did not move in on March 25, and one of the teens started shooting at his rivals. The gunslinger hit 13-year-old Zarriel Trotter, an innocent bystander; the bullet entered Trotter’s back near his spine and punctured his intestines. As of early April, the police were still searching for the shooter. “It gets scarier out here every day,” a classmate of Zarriel’s told the Chicago Tribune. “Young people in Chicago can’t go outside without knowing whether they will be the next person fired at.”