Although criminologists at the end of the 1990s predicted that New York’s drop in the crime rate would soon end, the city continued to see an improvement. Murders declined by an additional 36 percent and felonies by 31 percent from 2002 to 2012.
The benefits of the drop in crime were huge. Heather Mac Donald writes:
New York’s triumph over crime triggered the city’s rebirth in the 1990s, with the most powerful benefits flowing to low-income neighborhoods newly liberated from fear. Maintaining the public’s sense of security is the absolute precondition for future economic vitality.
Instead of doing everything in their power to bolster this achievement, Mac Donald writes, New York’s Democratic mayors have sought to “out-demagogue” each other by accusing the New York Police Department of racism. In doing so, they have attacked the very measures that were making the city safer. Ultimately, it is the poor and members of a minority who will suffer most from this.
Very much under attack is the NYPD’s right to stop and question people who are behaving suspiciously, a cornerstone of the drop in crime. Here is how it works:
If a commercial strip has been experiencing a rash of bodega holdups, say, and an officer notices two young men pacing nervously in front of a corner store, he may approach them and ask a few questions. If he has reason to think that they are armed, he may frisk them. Even if that stop doesn’t result in an arrest, it may deter a crime—if the two men were casing the location on behalf of an armed partner, for example.
Adversaries of the stop and question rule, who have a suit in U.S. District court, say that this is racist. More blacks and Hispanics are stopped than others, they say. But this is not because cops don’t like blacks and Hispanics—indeed, many cops belong to these groups. It is because the majority of crimes in these areas are committed by minorities.
This may be an unpleasant truth, but is is nevertheless the truth. Although blacks are 23 percent of the population of New York, they were responsible for 66 percent of violent crimes and 73 percent of shootings in 2011. Whites, who are 35 percent of New York’s population, are responsible for 6 percent of violent crimes and 3 percent of shootings.
Society obviously needs to explore ways to prevent young blacks from committing crimes that not only harm other s but ruin their lives. But the last thing we need to do is to hamper the police who will protect minorities from crime.
Members of the elite—who live in neighborhoods less beset by crime—have been working to end the stop and question policy. Mac Donald says it is almost certain that U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin will rule against stop and question. Scheindlin has already said that the NYPD abuses minorities. The judge is being asked to burden the NYPD with a consent decree and monitoring process. This will likely be an issue in the upcoming mayor’s race.
In a way, this epitomizes modern liberalism: liberals often do things that are harmful to low-income and minority people, while loudly taking credit for being on their side.