According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, murders have spiked by 24 percent this year in America’s 50 biggest cities, with 36 of those cities witnessing a double-digit increase. Chicago alone has accounted for “more than one of every eight homicides.”
These numbers reflect heartbreaking individual stories, many involving kids. The first sentence of an August 3rd Chicago Sun-Times editorial said it all: “Children continue to die in a Chicago that’s getting nowhere when it comes to curbing violent crime.”
On July 31st, for example, a nine-year-old boy named Janari Ricks was shot and killed while playing with friends behind some townhomes on the city’s Near North Side. His death prompted Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot to tweet, “While our City has made progress in reducing violence in recent weeks, all of that is lost when we lose another child to gun violence.”
One hopes that Mayor Lightfoot’s outrage will spur a more aggressive and effective strategy for tackling Chicago’s murder epidemic. Yet the first half of her tweet — ”our City has made progress in reducing violence in recent weeks” — suggests an alarming lack of seriousness about the problem.
Last month — a period of “progress,” according to Lightfoot — citywide murders increased by 139 percent compared with July 2019. Last weekend saw at least 34 people shot in Chicago, nine of them fatally. Since mid-June, no fewer than 16 Chicago children under age 10 have been shot, five of them fatally.
Describing people in her South Side neighborhood, community leader Betty Jo Swanson recently told a local reporter: “They can’t sit on their front porches, front lawns like they love to do. They’re afraid to walk to the corner, to the store. They can’t let their children play out on the sidewalk. So it’s affecting the everyday life of regular residents and things that make a summer fun for the young people.”
Violence of this magnitude demands genuine mayoral leadership. Alas, Mayor Lightfoot has made a series of headlines for alienating or squabbling with city aldermen, the Chicago police-union president, Donald Trump, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Her performance leaves much to be desired.
In fairness to Lightfoot, the crisis of urban leadership is a national phenomenon. Take Bill de Blasio, who may well be the worst mayor in the history of New York City.
After his tragically inept response to COVID-19, Mayor de Blasio has spent the past two months utterly demoralizing the New York Police Department (NYPD) amid a massive surge of violent crime. Since the George Floyd riots, New York has slashed $1 billion from the NYPD budget and disbanded a highly successful plainclothes anti-crime unit. Meanwhile, shootings in the city rose by 177 percent last month compared with July 2019, and murders increased by 59 percent. Once the poster child for America’s urban renaissance, Gotham is now watching three decades of progress unravel.
De Blasio isn’t helping. “With police already jumpy about getting engulfed by angry mobs, Molotov-cocktail attacks, and having their vehicles set on fire in even the toniest neighborhoods, they see de Blasio’s policy actions and public comments as gratuitous insults,” writes Kyle Smith of National Review. “Police unions have been buying full-page ads in the Post blasting de Blasio’s disastrous leadership, and one such union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has taken to ripping de Blasio in social media. Cops are lining up to hand in their retirement papers.”
We have seen a similar dereliction of duty in other cities. In Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler spent weeks whitewashing mob violence. In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan initially compared the armed occupation of a downtown neighborhood by far-left radicals to a “block party,” and only dismantled the so-called protest zone when multiple homicides occurred there. Now the city council is pushing to shrink the size and budget of the Seattle Police Department. In Minneapolis, the city council tried to put an amendment on the November ballot that would replace the current police department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention,” but a state agency has at least temporarily blocked this effort, demanding an additional 90 days to study the amendment.
The anti-police movement seems to believe that black Americans overwhelmingly oppose the police presence in their communities. Yet a Gallup survey conducted between late June and early July found that 81 percent of blacks want the police to spend either more time or the same amount of time in their area. Only 19 percent of blacks want the police to spend less time in their area.
Given everything that has happened since the death of George Floyd, those numbers should be front-page news.