Both/and vs. either/or

Violent crime, policing reform, and 5 links worth your time

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about in late 2021, the Council on Criminal Justice just released an update to their report, “Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Crime in U.S. Cities.”

The Council, a nonpartisan nonprofit, reported on the increase in crime rates in 29 American cities, and the results are alarming.

The facts

According to the report, in these cities, homicides in the first half of this year increased over the same period in 2020 by 16%. That’s bad enough, but if you compare these numbers to the first half of 2019, homicides are up 42%. Those are powerful statistics, but it’s easy to lose sight of the actual human cost. 548 more people—each someone’s father, mother, sister, or brother—were victims of homicide in the first half of 2021 than in 2019. 

Aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, and domestic violence were also higher in the first half of 2021 in these 29 cities. 

It’s not all bad news: robbery, burglary, and drug offenses are down from the same period last year. But even with that, it’s hard to be encouraged by those statistics in the face of 548 lives lost.  

Who do we blame?

When we hear these statistics, it is natural to look for someone or something to blame. Did the pandemic cause us to become more violent? Are calls for defunding the police leading to more homicides and more violence generally? Is ineffective policing resulting in more crime? 

Our guest on the podcast this week, Greg Newburn, has spent his professional life working in criminal justice policy. He wants to know how we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of criminal justice systems because he wants to see less crime and, as a result, less punishment. He’s got a lot to say about these discouraging statistics and what each of us can do about them. 

The first step is to stop thinking in terms of either/or and instead begin focusing on both/and solutions.  

We don’t have to pick one or the other

Back the blue or defund the police? 

If that’s a question you want to debate with friends and family, think about the cost of doing so. First, for people with strong views on either, it’s likely to cause tension or, worse, end relationships. But just as importantly, it will consume energy that could be better used to reverse this worrying trend in crime and improve our police departments.  As Greg says, if we’re going to spend our time arguing at the extremes, we’re not going to make much progress on solving the problems. The cost of crime affects all of us, one way or another, so it’s an issue we can’t afford to avoid.

I learned a lot from my conversation with Greg, and I hope you’ll listen for facts, inspiration, and practical suggestions. This week, in our five links we’ve got the Council on Criminal Justice’s July report, an op-ed from Greg that argues we can achieve police reform and reduce homicides, and several other pieces exploring the causes of and possible solutions to this increase in the most violent crimes. 

5 links worth your time

  1. This report examines changes in crime rates in 29 American cities since the start of the pandemic in 2020. (report referenced above) 
  2. Fixing the police and reducing homicide: Yes, Congress can do both. (article referenced above) 
  3. Intensive community policing leads to safer communities and fewer people living in poverty. 
  4. There are multiple causes for the increase in violent crime.   
  5. A fierce debate over how to handle rising violent crime in this major city.

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