This is the first of a three-part series.
The year 2020 will be remembered for the pandemic, social unrest, and the presidential election. It should be remembered for the massive one-year spike in murders that robbed so many mothers of children.
The Black Lives Matter social justice movement is focused on race relations and the treatment of minorities by police. Yet, it ignores that most of the Black lives lost last year to murder were not at the hands of police, but other Blacks.
The time to address the violence plaguing communities is now. Instead of looking for top-down, government-centered solutions, we should look to the communities themselves where mothers, fathers and law enforcement are working together to solve crimes, prevent violence and restore trust between neighborhoods and police.
The statistics of rising violent crime in America should be alarming. From 2019 to 2020, murders jumped nearly 95% in Milwaukee, more than 57% in Atlanta, nearly 55% in Boston, nearly 50% in Chicago, nearly 40% in New York City and 30% in Los Angeles. Homicides are on the rise in small cities as well.
It has been quite some time, perhaps 50 years, since murder rates rose so high in one year. It appears that the overall spike in murders occurred through at least three waves of violence: early in the pandemic, during the summer months and in the fall.
The easy and wrong answer for this violence is to blame poverty. Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attributed New York’s crime spike to unemployment: “They feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry.”
Advocates use this rationale to push for more stimulus funds and expanded public benefits, but it is unsubstantiated and ignores the social safety net that is already in place. If people were desperate for bread, that did not show up in the data.
The nonpartisan criminal justice think tank, the Council on Criminal Justice, studied crime rates for 10 different offenses in 28 American cities during the pandemic and social unrest. It found that property and drug crime rates fell during the first eight months of the pandemic even as murders rose.
There were significant declines in residential burglary (-24%), larceny (-24%) and drug offense (-32%) rates from the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, homicides (42%), aggravated assaults (13%-15%) and gun assaults (15%-16%) rose significantly beginning in late May and June of 2020.
Let us consider who is dying. As Manhattan Institute scholar, Rafael Mangual, opined in The New York Times, “Black and Hispanic people have constituted at least 95 percent of the city’s shooting victims every year for more than a decade … Data through October indicates that last year was no exception.” Black children also suffer the highest firearm homicide rates of all races according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
These murder statistics, though chilling, don’t adequately tell the stories of the individual lives lost. Some were as young as a 1-year-old toddler at a barbecue, a 15-month-old strapped into a car seat in the back of his father’s car, or a 9-year-old standing outside of his home.
These are just a handful of the lives that were ripped away prematurely by wanton violence last year. So many repeat the names Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland, but what about Davell Gardner and Carmelo Duncan?
Black and Hispanic people are not the leading homicide victims in absolute numbers, but they are disproportionately victims and, notably, the perpetrators share their skin color. This is an inconvenient truth that BLM organizations ignore.
Former Civil-Rights activist and founder and president of the Woodson Center, Mr. Robert L. Woodson, wrote recently, “For every unarmed black American killed by the police, hundreds are killed in neighborhood homicides.”
Advocates promote defunding the police by shifting revenue away from police forces toward human services. Perhaps gutting police forces will succeed in reducing the number of police shootings and violence, but it comes at a high cost—much higher crime rates.
The Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle its police force in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Now, the shrinking police force struggles to control rising crime. How is this good for the people in this community?
Americans of all colors overwhelmingly oppose dismantling police forces and support keeping police on their streets. They do support some police reforms, especially those that require police to have good relations with the communities they serve. Those solutions exist, and women, especially black women, are pioneering approaches.
For decades mothers have rallied, held vigils and protested the senseless murders of their children. Now, mothers nationwide are taking the matter of public safety into their own hands.
More than 2,500 mothers have joined the Voices of Black Mothers United network, an initiative led by African-American mothers of murdered children, which brings together law enforcement and community partners for solutions to violence. They oppose the radical defund-the-police agenda because they know that smaller police forces will not prevent what happened to their loved ones from happening to others.
In some cases, their efforts are providing needed resources to help police forces solve crimes, something that will go a long way to rebuilding trust. The Woodson Center is supporting this initiative.
In a forthcoming “She Thinks Podcast” interview, I asked Mr. Woodson what policies he thinks would address rising crime in America. He suggested that we should make room for community-centric solutions.
Communities have the best chance of identifying the solutions that are needed for their specific areas, they’ll know what drives crime and violence and have a track record of success. And success is what we need right now. Unlike many social issues, this truly is a life-or-death situation.