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Blue City Blues

Monday, October 9, 2023

Blue City Blues

Many politicians on the left arguably suffer from a sort of collective confirmation bias, where the solution to crime is to enable more crime. How else to explain the steadfast commitment to things like gun control that targets the law-abiding, no bail and non-prosecution criminal justice reforms, and defunding the police, all of which have apparently done little except drive up crime? 

Lately, though, the media has highlighted instances where reality has broken through and harshed the buzz, as it were.

In Democrat-controlled Chicago, crime this year has risen in just about every category tracked by the Chicago Police Department. Raymond Lopez, an alderman for Chicago’s 15th Ward, discussed the results of the extreme liberal agenda and his conclusion that “common sense requires us to start standing up and pushing back on the criminality in our neighborhoods.” There’s no place that is “off limits from crime in the city of Chicago anymore,” Lopez said, and “innocent people are being hunted down like prey.” Changes in state criminal law mean that serious violent crimes like robbery, burglary, arson, assault and even threatening elected officials “do not warrant you being held on bond anymore.” Criminals, he said, “are taking note [and] they’ve become emboldened,” while politicians are ignoring the public’s cries for help – they simply sit back and “stick to the script.” When “you put people who are socialists or ultra-progressives in office… you wind up with a tone-deaf leadership that doesn’t care and is too busy trying to find root causes as opposed to finding root criminals in our midst.” The fallout of these progressive and liberal policies, “particularly when it comes to police reform and criminal justice reform,” tends to land on “those same Black and Brown residents that the White liberals claim to care about but truly don’t.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) had the unwanted distinction of experiencing the D.C. carjacking epidemic first-hand last week when “three young punks” threatened him with guns before making off with his car, his phone and his sushi. Violent crime in the District has increased by 39% this year compared with 2022, with robberies (which include carjackings) up by a staggering 69%.

The District of Columbia is an “overwhelmingly Democratic” jurisdiction and has the gun control and crime statistics to prove it. Its elected representatives passed the D.C. Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 (RCCA), a law that (among other things) reduced penalties and eliminated mandatory minimum sentences. The District’s mayor vetoed the legislation, citing the “substantially reduced penalties for robberies, carjackings, and home invasion burglaries” it contained and ultimately, the law was blocked by Congress.

Speaking to the media about the attack, Rep. Cuellar noted that he was one of the few Democrats who voted against the RCCA and “against what the Washington, D.C. Council did, to lower penalties; I think that’s a wrong direction…” Asked whether he thought D.C. was safe, Rep. Cuellar replied that, based on the number of assaults, rapes and murders at the southern border, “Washington is about two, three times more dangerous” than, say, Laredo, Texas, “and we certainly see it now.” Challenged about Democratic support for defunding the police and “the crime issue,” he said, “I don’t believe in defunding the police,” and “a society without law and order is not a society.”    

Across the country in hyper-liberal Portland, Oregon, residents had enthusiastically embraced the “defund the police” movement, with city politicians voting to slash the police budget by at least $15M and to disband the police bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team. These changes coincided with the approval of Oregon Ballot Measure 110 (2020), which decriminalized the non-commercial possession of cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine and other controlled substances in the state, on the premise that a “health-based approach to addiction and overdose is more effective, humane and cost-effective than criminal punishments.”

The results included a not-so-effective surge in drug use in public spaces, rampant overdoses, and escalating pressure on Portland’s public resources. Rene Gonzalez, the city’s commissioner of public safety, was recently compelled to ask residents not to call 911 unless it concerned a life-or-death crisis or a crime in progress, owing to the fact that the 911 system was overwhelmed with calls about multiple overdose emergencies at the time. In an interview last month, he explained that “we were promised” better health outcomes once Measure 110 was passed. “We’re not seeing those better outcomes… we’re seeing exploding overdose deaths at the city, county and state level. Our 911 system is getting crushed. Portland Fire right now is on pace to see a 60% increase in overdose responses this year. That was after about 45% last year.”

The lack of better outcomes, along with residents’ outrage about open, public consumption of hard drugs and all that entails, has prompted Portland’s city council to adopt a drug use criminalization ordinance, with the council also directing its lobbyists to push for legislative changes at the state level. Portland has done an about-face on police funding, too. Its 2023-24 budget increases spending on the Portland Police Bureau by more than $13M compared to the previous budget. The budget document states, further, that the “bureau launched the Enhanced Community Safety Team (ECST) in February 2021 to investigate shootings,” and “the bureau announced the creation of the Focused Intervention Team (FIT) to lower the tensions in the community and prevent gun violence.” 

Progressive politicians in liberal cities need to think about why it is that the Nation’s capital is viewed as two or three times more dangerous than the Mexican border, and whether the “crime is okay” message that their policies are sending have anything to do with it.

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