“It would be foolish to deny that there’s a specific significance when citizens are unjustly killed by the police,” Michael Tracey observes, but it also bothers Tracey that the media pays minuscule attention to the thousands of other unjust shootings that are on the rise.
In a must-read article on Substack, Tracey reports that, a year after the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis, where riots broke out after Floyd was murdered there, has experienced a surge of homicides. Last year, Minneapolis saw the second-largest number of murders in its history, second only to 1995, when the city was dubbed “Murderapolis.”
“We’re gonna blow Murderopolis off the charts this year,” a policeman told Tracey. But who cares? More than 80 percent of the victims of shootings were black, but, if a cop wasn’t the shooter, the media shrubs. St. Paul faces a similar situation.
Tracey captures the atmosphere on the streets:
“There’s way more people it seems like with guns now than there ever has been,” another Minneapolis cop told me, and “much less hesitation to use them.” These officers theorize that the explanation for the crime surge is related to the city’s political climate over the past year, which in their view has allowed perpetrators to wreak havoc without consequence. “They feel emboldened and they feel untouchable, in my opinion,” the cop said.
Yes, it’s true: police are generally not credentialed experts in criminology or sociology, and their theories for complex multi-causal phenomena obviously should not be taken as gospel. Still, it is worth incorporating their viewpoint into any assessment of the overall situation. Just as it’s worth taking into account the perspectives of non-police citizens who virtually never factor into national media narratives — narratives which are usually crafted by elites who live in affluent areas that undergo little or no violent crime. And while they express it differently, regular citizens (including non-whites) often have a similar perspective as police on the issue of crime prevention.
Tracey, who must be a talented interviewer, gives a lot of first-hand accounts of people who are not in elite neighborhoods, and thus are more likely to see violent crime than dwellers in gated communities or other affluent enclaves. I urge you to read Tracey’s reporting.
But I want to call your attention to one observer in particular:
Kevin C. is 22 years old and lives with his younger sister in their great-grandmother’s house off Lake Street in South Minneapolis — the epicenter of last summer’s riots and protests. He was a protester himself, and even had to jump out of the way during an infamous incident when a tanker truck nearly barreled into the crowd he was in on the interstate.
Now almost a year later, he told me his current preference is for police to be more aggressive in curbing indiscriminate violence in his neighborhood. A few weeks ago, he said, there was a shooting in the alley behind his house — bullets were flying just yards from him and his sister. “The police came, but they didn’t really like, investigate,” he recalled. “They just shined their lights and then drove off.”
He said he’d noticed a steep decline in police presence lately, especially after last week’s trial of Derek Chauvin ended with a guilty verdict. “Even before the trial,” he said, “they would drive through here, but there wouldn’t be any, like, policing going on.”
Kevin said he and his family uniformly wanted police to be more assertive — in the sense of addressing genuine threats to public safety such as shootings, though without any extraneous harassing behavior thrown in. “Honestly, we just want them to do what they supposed to do. All the extra stuff, you can just keep. That’s for the birds. If there’s a problem, and we’re contacting you to come check it out, we expect you to do above and beyond the call of duty. Not — you know what I’m saying — do what they usually do. Just come over here, flash a light, and speed off.”
He is shortsighted, and said the eyeglasses store he used to go to down the street has been permanently shuttered since last summer.
Minneapolis cops tend to agree that the primary reason for this surge in crime is that their resources have been stretched precariously thin, as a result of widespread anti-police sentiment since the George Floyd episode. “It’s kind of like the Wild Wild West out here,” one cop told me.
Since there are fewer police, the number of calls a cop takes a day has increased from around 10 to around 30. This will get worse as police resignations continue. I can’t help thinking that, when a cop arrives at the scene, if anything goes wrong, she must be thinking: will I get a fair shake in the current anti-law and order atmosphere?
Popular sentiment is clearly not on the side of civic order. The Target where the Floyd rioting began last summer, site of looting and destruction, is now decorated with what Tracey describes as “corporate sponsored” pro-riot murals! In the current atmosphere, Kevin C. may not see an adequately staffed police force able to protect him any time soon.