And any intelligent anti-crime program will have to begin with a recognition that there are in effect separate criminal ecosystems with distinct pathologies that operate differently in different communities: black, white, Latino, rich, poor, urban, suburban, rural, immigrant. We should understand these as genuinely distinct phenomena rather than approach them as “crime,” categorically, drawing only superficial correlations with community features. While it is easy to lampoon the stale “root causes” talk of vintage-sweater-vest progressivism, understanding what is actually going on with crime is going to require a deeper and richer engagement with local leaders — leaders with local knowledge — in a variety of communities that we might describe genuinely as “diverse.” Without that, we’ll end up with a policy-making conversation in which well-intentioned outsiders impose their own narrative — and, irrespective of whether they intend to, their own interests — on situations and communities with which they are only superficially familiar.
This is of particularly urgent political concern for Republicans, who have conceded the cities to the Democrats and now are slowly conceding the suburbs. The crime boom and progressives’ generally unserious response to it have been political gifts to them — or would have been, if they knew what to make of them. The misgovernment of New York City by Democrats kept that party out of the mayor’s office for most of a generation, during which time the city thrived under the leadership of Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani and quondam-Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg. With the city reeling, Republicans had an opening to offer a viable alternative to progressive incompetence. Naturally, they blew it, nominating celebrity vigilante and talk-radio loudmouth Curtis Sliwa, a minor asteroid in the galaxy of Trump-adjacent buffoonery, while the Democrats have put forward Eric Adams, a black retired police captain, sometime Republican, and vocal critic of the police-defunding movement. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.