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Are Liberals Having Second Thoughts on “Decarceration”?

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2024
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by David Lewis Schaefer
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17 Comments
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AMAC EXCLUSIVE

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Since even before the George Floyd riots, liberal state and local officials in the U.S. have espoused support for “depolicing” and “decarceration.” But now the resultant (and predictable) nationwide crime surge from those policies has some liberal politicians backtracking – even as others plow forward.

Depolicing and decarceration mean, respectively, reducing the size of police forces and restricting the tactics that police may employ (e.g. using “stop and frisk” policies to search individuals suspected of carrying illegal firearms), and similarly reducing the prison population by limiting criminal sentences, to the point of even eliminating the requirement that arrestees post bail for all but the most serious offenses. Not surprisingly, this approach, part of a broader liberal push for so-called “criminal justice reform,” has emboldened criminals, especially in cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

One form of crime that has experienced an extraordinary upsurge is violent shoplifting, often organized by criminal gangs. In New York City alone, according to Nelson Eusebio, head of the National Supermarket Association, 93 percent of store owners report being victimized by shoplifters, with 60 percent saying they are victimized every day.

The result is that local stores have lost $300 million in revenue, despite having had to spend more on security. Frequently, the “boosters” (as they call themselves) also launch violent attacks on store employees. As a byproduct, businesses like CVS find themselves compelled to lock up many ordinary items on their shelves, with customers needing employee assistance to purchase the items.

So bad has the situation become that New York Governor Kathy Hochul, typically a reliably liberal politician, has launched a program to combat retail theft. The program will include (as the New York Post reports) building criminal cases against retail theft rings, funding district attorneys to prosecute property crimes, and setting up a “State Police smash-and-grab unit.”

Hochul, in justification of her crackdown, estimated that shoplifting is currently costing retailers $4.4 billion annually. Many of the stores most victimized by New York City’s lifters, it should be noted, are small, minority-owned businesses.

However, one critical element of Hochul’s program has been blocked by New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: her plan to strengthen criminal penalties for violent shoplifters.

Given the two-thirds majority Democrats hold in the New York State Assembly, accompanied by a strong majority in the Senate, Heastie is basically assured of having his way. By way of explanation, Heastie professed to “care very deeply” about “what’s happened to retail workers,” but to have “other [unspecified] ideas of how” to address their situation. As he put it, “If you just keep dealing with the penalties, what happens after people get arrested? You’re still only worrying about what happens after something has already happened.”

Heastie’s explanation makes no sense. Along with taking offenders off the street, a chief function of criminal penalties is to deter crimes before they happen. But he inexplicably denied believing that “raising penalties is ever a deterrent to crime.”

Heastie’s position represents the extremes to which urban liberalism has gone: pitying the criminals who may face incarceration, rather than their victims, in this case, store workers, store owners, and consumers who must pay higher prices for their purchases given the stores’ need to cover their losses.

But a different story from America’s “Left Coast” perhaps offers a ray of hope.

In an article titled “The Lessons Learned about Decriminalization” on April 2, The New York Times reported the decision of Oregon Governor Tina Kotek to sign into law “a measure to restore criminal penalties” for the possession of “hard” drugs. Oregon had eliminated such penalties only three years ago.

Following what the Times describes as “a deluge of overdose deaths and frequent chaos in the streets of Portland,” the restoration of penalties earned the support of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. After initially favoring cuts to his city’s police department, only to face “a series of crises,” including what the Times reports as “surging unsheltered homelessness, turbulent street protests, an exodus of downtown business, a record number of homicides, the rapid spread of fentanyl, and soaring overdose deaths,” Wheeler had a change of heart.

“People are exhausted from feeling that they’re under siege. They want order restored to their environment,” Wheeler explained in response to the Times interviewer’s observation that “across the country, there’s been a shift toward more conservative policies on policing and crime and drug policy.”

In the “very uncertain times” we face, Wheeler added, people have “a minimum expectation that where they live is an orderly, safe, secure, prosperous place to be. And if they don’t see it, that is unsettling. They need to have that.”

Wheeler’s remarks are not only sensible but particularly striking, emanating from the chief executive (since 2016) of the city that witnessed violent Antifa riots of 2020 (which included actions like hurling Molotov cocktails at the police and beating reporter Andy Ngo within an inch of his life for describing what he had seen). Those riots became a model for emulation in cities across the country – and few participants in them suffered any serious penalties. If anything, the lasting effect of the unrest (so far) has been to fortify the anti-policing, anti-punishment approach to crime.

But if the public leaders of Oregon and the Governor of New York are showing signs of coming to their senses on these matters, perhaps there is hope for a more widespread return to reasonable policies that will restore a sense of order to our communities, as the policies of New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg did starting three decades ago. Somehow, in the face of recurrent liberal fantasies, often fortified by misguided racial demagoguery, the lessons of reality need continually to be relearned.

David Lewis Schaefer is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science College of the Holy Cross.

 

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Joe
Joe
1 month ago

In my opinion, the only way the liberals will change their no-cost bail and defund-the-police policies, is for the office occupiers or a member of their families to fall victim to a criminal who was released after arrest, instead of getting thrown in the slammer. Unfortunately it’s the law-abiding citizens who become victims while the liberal scum hire armed security for themselves and their families.

uncleferd
uncleferd
1 month ago

You mean, if President Biden was finally arrested for all of his crimes against American citizens, he could be arrested and forced to serve time?? OK – I’M LISTENING !!!

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Only when crime directly effects them: kin, friends, staffers HIT only way

Max
Max
1 month ago

I reside in a small town where I have noticed that more and more shops are putting items behind glass for protecting their merchandise from shoplifters. Still, there is merchandise that can be stolen such as clothes items with problem. Shoplifting may be a lot higher in those localities where the left have defunded law enforcement but the problem remains all over and at all levels of our society.

Theresa Coughlin
Theresa Coughlin
1 month ago

If liberals are having second thoughts, it’s too little too late for crime victims. Also, full disclosure, I live in New York State. Therefore, I have a front row seat as what their soft on crime policies (which they laughingly call criminal justice reform) have wrought. NY is now a cesspool of crime. As for Heastie’s claim that he claims very deeply about what’s happened to retail workers: TALK IS CHEAP!

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 month ago

Sad to say, Heastie is either a miscreant or he has the common sense of a 5 year old child. There are many people who will only learn to be considerate of others if they are punished for their bad behavior. Before a person can develop a respect for law and order — he/she must first learn to respect authority. A respect for authority comes with strong enforcement of rules and regulations. Many humans are still very primitive in feeling empathy for others, and if these humans are not punished for their misdeeds, their willingness to prey on others will never be tempered by a strong sense of ethics. Heastie should leave politics — his understanding of human nature is dismal.

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 month ago

You can always count on democrats to protect criminals. Just look who’s in the WH. Even the DOJ protects criminals since Dictator Beijing biden has Federalized ALL government law enforcement agencies making up FANTASY WORLD laws.
The DOJ wouldn’t prosecute Dictator Beijing biden for STEALING Sensitive Highly Classified Documents from the White House WITHOUT National Security Clearance.
That speaks volumes alone.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

Antifa and all others fighting for social justice will get a shock of a lifetime when they get what they are fighting for Chinese justice will not be soft on them

David Campbell
David Campbell
1 month ago

The left, the hard left, not run of the mill democrats that have been turned into useful idiots, are not going to “come to their senses”. They know exactly what they are doing. Once you accept the fact that the (hard) left wants to destroy the USA as we know it, everything makes sense.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 month ago

But CNN says crime is down… and they are “the most trusted name in news”! (Sarcasm)

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 month ago

Armed guardes shooting a bunch of th4se thieves would stop a lot of it. Killem so they dont get back on the street. Kyle L.

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