“Never trust anyone over thirty.”
So went the 1960s hippie mantra, never mind that it logically excluded such counterculture shamans as Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden before the decade ended. Of course, logical fidelity wasn’t exactly the hallmark of that era of Pentagon levitation efforts and hygiene-deficient communes inhabited by figures like Charles Manson.
In any event, today that slogan’s converse – never trust anyone under thirty – might offer wiser guidance, at least insofar as our sudden societal debate over policing policy is concerned.
After all, anyone under thirty possesses no living memory of a nation enfeebled by ever-rising violent crime that defied mitigation, or appreciates the mid-1990s tough-on-crime policing and sentencing strategies that cut America’s murder rate back in half.
New York City, most notable three decades ago as a murderous, filthy, lawless dystopia, offers an instructive tale that parallels the nation’s.
Between 1965 and 1993, murders in New York tripled from 634 to 1,946. Over that same period, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), nationwide murders also nearly tripled from 9,960 in 1965 to 24,530 in 1993.
Then, a remarkable reversal began. New York City surprised the world by electing Rudolph Giuliani as mayor. Giuliani, along with New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William Bratton, instituted the “Broken Windows” policing theory introduced by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in a 1982 article in The Atlantic.
According to their theory, unaddressed broken windows or other seemingly “minor” or “victimless” crimes like graffiti, loitering, subway turnstile-hopping or drug possession signaled to potential criminals that authority was absent. Additionally, they understood that a small percentage of the population committed an overwhelming percentage of crimes. Accordingly, “Broken Windows” policing shifted focus to cleaning up the city’s streets and maintaining order. “Once you begin to deal with the small problems in neighborhoods,” Kelling said, “communities get strengthened once order is restored or maintained, and it is that dynamic that helps prevent crime.”
Moreover, criminals incarcerated for seemingly “minor” crimes were thereby incapacitated from committing other more serious crimes, creating a virtuous cycle of reduced crime.
Other cities across the nation learned from New York’s miracle and followed suit, reversing a crime problem that seemed intractable just two decades earlier. By 2018, murders in New York plummeted from 1,946 to 289. That’s tens of thousands of lives saved in New York City alone, thanks primarily to tougher, law-and-order policing.
In 1990, Gallup reported that 53% of respondents said that crime was worse in their area compared to the previous year, while only 18% stated that there was less crime. By 2002, the number of Americans reporting that crime had improved over the past year exceeded those reporting worsening crime by a 52% to 26% margin.
Then, beginning most visibly with the false “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” riots in Ferguson, Missouri, when Michael Brown was shot after attacking a police officer and attempting to take his firearm, a growing number of activists began demanding an end to the policing tactics that had achieved the most remarkable and beneficial sociological reversal since Ronald Reagan’s policies won the Cold War.
That anti-police movement went into hyperdrive this year, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. That city has now voted to defund its police force, while New York City’s Bill DeBlasio pledges to cut police funding by $1 billion. Other cities across America have followed suit, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti committing to cutting the police budget by $150 million in order to fund social programs.
Cowardly mayors and other elected officials have refused to support their police forces, and the results have been predictable, even if unexpectedly swift.
According to the NYPD, homicides have jumped 21% over last year, while the increase is already 13% in Washington, D.C. In Philadelphia, murder is up 25%, it’s up 20% in San Francisco and a horrific 60% for the year to date in Minneapolis. As other cities and states tabulate their crime data, we’ll witness the same societal backsliding.
Undeterred, liberal political leaders are only bowing further in fealty to the mobs.
This week, Joe Biden actually referred to police as “the enemy” in compliant response to an interviewer who spoke of “America’s commitment to white supremacy” as a preface to his question of whether Biden supports the proposal to “redirect some of the funding for police into social service such as mental health counseling and affordable housing.” In responding affirmatively, Biden actually compared police to “the military invading.” Biden continued, “They become the enemy, they’re supposed to be protecting these people.”
Biden’s profile in cowardice, however, may not prove the electoral accelerant that he seems to assume.
Specifically, Gallup regularly surveys Americans’ confidence in various public institutions, and police place behind only the military and small businesses in terms of public esteem.
In Gallup’s most recent poll, police enjoyed a net +39% positive rating, one of only three institutions in which over 50% of the public expressed “a great deal/quite a lot” of confidence. Notably, four of the public institutions most inherently favorable toward Biden – labor unions, public schools, television news and newspapers – rated among the lowest in terms of public confidence.
Even if Biden’s sentiment were an electoral winner, however, that’s no excuse for his historical amnesia and willingness to undermine the nation’s police forces in a way that jeopardizes so many lives. Radical activists under the age of thirty don’t know any better from life experience. What excuse can Biden and other leftist political leaders offer?
Reprinted with Permission from - Center for Individual Freedom by - Timothy H. Lee