Is “Ferguson Effect” Encouraging A New U.S. Crime Wave?


The nation's two-decades-long crime decline may be over, says Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal. Gun violence is spiraling upward in many cities. In Baltimore, gun violence is up more than 60 percent compared with this time last year. In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180 percent by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39 percent, robberies 43 percent, and homicides 25 percent. Murders in Atlanta were up 32 percent as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24 percent and homicides 17 percent. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25 percent; in New York, murder was up nearly 13 percent, and gun violence 7 percent.

The most plausible explanation is the intense agitation against police departments over the past nine months. Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today. Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests. The incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson has called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Dotson said. Similar “Ferguson effects” are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56 percent in May compared with 2014.

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